BAGHDAD — A series of coordinated evening blasts in Baghdad and other violence killed at least 67 people in Iraq on Tuesday, officials said, the latest in a months-long increase in bloodshed that Iraqi security forces are struggling to contain.
Many of those killed were caught in a string of car bombings that tore through the Iraqi capital early in the evening as residents were out shopping or heading to dinner. Those blasts struck 11 neighborhoods and claimed more than 50 lives in less than two hours.
The killing comes amid a spike in deadly violence in recent months as insurgents try to capitalize on rising sectarian and ethnic tensions. The scale of the bloodshed has risen to levels not seen since 2008, a time when Iraq was pulling back from the brink of civil war.
The evening’s deadliest attack happened when two car bombs exploded near restaurants and shops in Baghdad’s northeastern suburb of Husseiniyah, a Shi’ite area, killing nine people and wounding 32.
A row of restaurants was also hit in the largely Shi’ite neighborhood of Talibiyah, killing seven and wounding 28. Another car bomb hit the nearby Shi’ite neighborhood of Sadr City, killing three and wounding eight, according to police.
Around the same time, back-to-back car bombs blew up near a police station in the Sadiyah, a mainly Sunni area, killing six and wounding 15. Another blast hit a square in the commercial district of Karradah, killing six and wounding 14.
The blast shattered windows in Karim Sami’s clothing shop. He expressed frustration with the Shi’ite-led government’s inability to stop repeated attacks despite assurances that it is tightening security.
“We started to feel a little bit safe over the past few days because they were relatively calm, but the violence is back,” he said. “Whenever the government assures us that security is being tightened, we see attacks.”
Car bombs also struck: shopping streets in the religiously mixed western neighborhood of Shurta, killing five people and wounding 12; the southeastern Shi’ite neighborhood of Zafaraniyah, killing four and wounding 11; the southern Shi’ite neighborhood of Abu Dashir, killing two and wounding nine; the mostly Shi’ite New Baghdad area, killing six people and wounding 17; and the largely Sunni Dora neighborhood, killing two and wounding five, according to police.
Another car bomb exploded near an outdoor market in the Shi’ite village of Maamil, in the eastern suburbs of the capital, killing three and wounding 41.
No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, but coordinated car bombings and attacks on civilians and Iraqi security forces are a favorite tactic of the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda. It typically does not lay claim to attacks for several days, if at all.
Iraqi officials say the lawlessness roiling Syria, where the civil war has taken on sharp sectarian overtones similar to those that nearly tore Iraq apart, is fueling the upsurge of violence inside Iraq. Al Qaeda’s Iraq arm and other Sunni extremist groups are fighting on the side of rebels trying to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad, which is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam.
“The recent threats of a military operation against Syria have encouraged the insurgents to wage more attacks inside Iraq. We have warned of this, but unfortunately, nobody is listening,” said Ali al-Moussawi, the spokesman for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The evening blasts added to a death toll that had been mounting throughout the day.
Authorities awoke to find four bodies with gunshot wounds to the back laying in the streets in different locations around the Iraqi capital.
Their discovery was particularly chilling because it was reminiscent of the sectarian violence that engulfed the country after the US invasion and peaked in 2006 and 2007, when corpses were commonly found dumped on the streets.
Shi’ite and Sunni leaders have both called for calm as the death tolls mounted in recent months.