At least 56 people have been killed and more than 200 others injured in a wave of bombings which tore through Baghdad today, highlighting increasing sectarian tensions in Iraq on the eve of the anniversary of the US-led invasion.
The attacks, mostly car bombs, targeted small restaurants, day labourers and bus stops in the Iraqi capital and nearby towns over a period of more than two hours.
The bombings came 10 years to the day that Washington announced the start of the invasion on March 19 2003 – though by that time it was already the following morning in Iraq.
While violence has ebbed since its peak in 2006 and 2007, the latest attacks show that insurgents remain a potent threat to Iraq’s security forces and long-term stability.
One of the deadliest of today’s attacks struck close to one of the main gates to the heavily-fortified Green Zone, which houses major government offices and the embassies of several countries, including the United States and Britain.
That blast, outside a restaurant, killed six people, including two soldiers, and wounded more than 15. Thick black smoke could be seen rising from the area as ambulances raced to the scene.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for today’s blasts, but the attacks bore the hallmarks of al Qaida in Iraq. The terror group favours spectacular, co-ordinated bombings intended to undermine public confidence in the Shiite-led government.
The violence started at around 8am local time, when a bomb exploded outside a popular restaurant in Baghdad’s Mashtal neighbourhood, killing four people and wounding 15.
Minutes later, two day labourers were killed and eight injured when a roadside bomb hit the place where they gather every day in an area of New Baghdad.
In the poor Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City, a bomb attached to the underside of a minibus killed three commuters and wounded seven people.