BAGHDAD — Emboldened militants in Iraq set up their own checkpoint to kill drivers and bombed crowded cafes Thursday in the deadliest of a series of attacks that killed at least 42 people, authorities said.
About 550 people have been killed in attacks so far this month, an Associated Press count shows, as violence continues during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The speaker of Iraq’s Parliament admitted that insecurity likely will rise after a huge jail break freed hundreds of inmates, including Al Qaeda militants.
The deadliest attack Thursday occurred when a bomb exploded in a crowded cafe near Baghdad, killing 16 diners and wounding 20 others.
Iraqi police said that the blast targeted Noufel cafe near Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad.
Ahmed Ibrahim, a government employee, was shopping near the cafe when he heard a thunderous explosion.
‘‘Everybody rushed to the explosion site and saw charred bodies that were thrown outside the cafe because of the powerful explosion,’’ he said. ‘‘The scene was horrible.’’
An hour later, a bomb went off inside another cafe near Baghdad, killing two people and wounding six, authorities said. Hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures.
During Ramadan, cafes in Iraq become quite crowded as people gather to break the daily fast. Extremists have targeted crowded cafes this year.
Earlier Thursday, insurgents outside the village of Sarha launched mortar rounds at a nearby military base and bombed a communication tower to distract security forces. Then they quickly set up a fake checkpoint on a nearby highway to stop passing vehicles, said Colonel Hussein Ali Rasheed, the police chief in nearby Tuz Khormato, about 125 miles north of Baghdad.
The corpses of 14 drivers and passengers in a convoy of trucks caught at the checkpoint, all of them Shi’ites, were later found, each killed by gunshots to the head, he said.
In the northern city of Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, militants shot and killed three off-duty soldiers as they were leaving a restaurant, provincial health official Raed Ibrahim said. The soldiers were on their way to Baghdad from Mosul.
And in the city of Kirkuk, a parked car bomb targeted a passing police patrol on Thursday morning, critically wounding six police officers, Colonel Salah Abdul-Qadir said.