Dozens dead in series of Sunday bombings

A boy inspects a destroyed car after a car bomb attack hit the Sha'ab neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

A boy inspects a destroyed car after a car bomb attack hit the Sha’ab neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Associated Press reports

A series of attacks including car bombings in Baghdad, an explosion at a market and a suicide assault in a northern city killed at least 66 people Sunday across Iraq, officials said, the latest in a wave of violence washing over the country.

Coordinated bombings hit Iraq multiple times each month, feeding a spike in bloodshed that has killed more than 5,000 people since April. The local branch of al-Qaida often takes responsibility for the assaults, although there was no immediate claim for Sunday’s blasts.

Sunday’s attacks were the deadliest single-day series of assaults since Oct. 5, when 75 people were killed in violence.

Police officers said that the bombs in the capital, placed in parked cars and detonated over a half-hour period, targeted commercial areas and parking lots, killing 42 people.

The deadliest blasts struck in the southeastern Nahrwan district, where two car bombs exploded simultaneously, killing seven and wounding 15, authorities said. Two other explosions hit the northern Shaab and southern Abu Dashir neighborhoods, each killing six people, officials said. Other blasts hit the neighborhoods of Mashtal, Baladiyat and Ur in eastern Baghdad, the southwestern Bayaa district and the northern Sab al-Bor and Hurriyah districts.

Meanwhile, in the northern city of Mosul, a suicide bomber drove his explosives-laden car into a group of soldiers as they were sealing off a street leading to a bank where troops were receiving salaries, killing 14, a police officer said. At least 30 people were wounded, the officer said. Also in Mosul, police said gunmen shot dead two off-duty soldiers in a drive-by shooting.

The former insurgent stronghold of Mosul is located about 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad.

In the afternoon, a bomb blast killed four people and wounded 11 inside an outdoor market in the Sunni town of Tarmiyah, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Baghdad, authorities said.

Sunday night, police said mortar shells landed on homes in a Shiite district of Madain, a town just south of Baghdad, killing four people and wounding nine, officials said.

Such coordinated attacks are a favorite tactic of al-Qaida’s local branch. It frequently targets civilians in markets, cafes and commercial streets in Shiite areas in an attempt to undermine confidence in the government, as well as members of the security forces. All of the car bombings Sunday in Baghdad struck Shiite neighborhoods.

In Mashtal in Baghdad, police and army forces sealed off the scene as ambulances rushed to pick up the wounded. Pools of blood covered the pavement. The force of the explosion damaged number of cars and shops. At one restaurant, the blast overturned wooden benches and left broken eggs scattered on the ground. In Shaab, a crane lifted away at least 12 charred cars as cleaners swept away debris.

Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures for all attacks. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to publicly release the information.

18 dead in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan – A roadside bomb killed 18 civilians Sunday, mostly women and children, after it struck a small bus coming from a wedding in a lawless district of eastern Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, police said.

Deputy provincial police chief Col. Asadullah Ensafi said the blast occurred in the Andar district as the bus travelled from one village to another just before dusk.

He said the dead include 14 women, three men and a child. Ensafi said the blast wounded five women and two were in critical condition.

Ensafi said he had no other details, as the remote area was not easily accessible to security forces.

Andar is one of the few districts in Ghazni where the Taliban retain some measure of control and often attack security forces, mostly by laying bombs along roads.

Roadside bombs are the Taliban’s weapon of choice and are responsible for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties.

Five killed at rally

PATNA, India – A series of small bomb blasts killed five people and injured dozens Sunday in an east Indian city just before a massive campaign rally by the country’s main opposition prime ministerial candidate in a nearby park.

After the six homemade bombs went off in the Bihar state capital of Patna, panic and confusion erupted briefly among the hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the park to hear Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party speak.

Local reporters at the scene said authorities did not inform them of the blasts until the rally was over, and many people thought the explosions were from firecrackers or from cars misfiring.

Authorities quickly restored order and the rally went ahead as scheduled. Modi made no mention of the blasts during his hourlong speech, but offered condolences later to the victims in a Twitter message. The longtime chief minister of western Gujarat state has been waging a fierce national campaign to unseat the Congress-led government in next year’s elections.

Police detained four men for questioning after the explosions, but did not say whether they were suspects.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the violence and appealed for peace and calm.

The first blast came from a crude bomb that exploded in a public toilet building on an isolated railway platform, Patna district police chief Manu Maharaj said.

Another bomb went off near a movie theater, and four more exploded just outside the park, sending plumes of gray smoke swirling above the crowd.

“All the bombs produced low-intensity blasts,” Maharaj said. “An anti-sabotage team is investigating what happened.”

Five people died from the blasts and 73 were being treated for injuries, according to the head of Patna Medical College hospital, Vimal Karak.