BAGHDAD - More than a dozen bombings ripped through Shiite neighbourhoods in and around Baghdad, the bloodiest in a wave of attacks Wednesday that killed 59 people across Iraq amid spiralling violence.
The worst of the bloodshed struck the capital and surrounding areas in the form of a spate of apparently coordinated car bombs and suicide attacks targeting morning rush hour.
Residents in one neighbourhood angrily reacted to one blast by chasing down a suspected attacker and killing him before setting his corpse ablaze.
The unrest came despite widely publicised security operations targeting militants in Baghdad and to the north and west, though the government has faced criticism it is not dealing with the root causes of Iraq’s worst violence since 2008.
The spike in violence since the beginning of the year, with more than 3,700 people killed in 2013, has sparked concerns the country is teetering on the edge of a return to the brutal all-out sectarian war that plagued it in 2006 and 2007. Overall, violence in Baghdad and towns just south of the capital left 57 dead, while two others were killed in attacks in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. More than 190 people were wounded nationwide.
“We are poor people, and all of our things have been burned, and our home has fallen to the ground,” said Marwa, an 18-year-old resident of Shaab, a predominantly Shiite north Baghdad neighbourhood where four people were killed, and cars and nearby buildings were damaged by two car bombs.
“The politicians are fighting over positions and not looking after us,” she continued, crying as she spoke.
“The people are homeless because of these explosions. Who is going to compensate us? Who is going to compensate the youth?” The deadliest attack, though, struck in the Jisr al-Diyala neighbourhood of southeast Baghdad, with at least nine people killed and 27 others wounded in twin bombings.
After the blast, local residents ran down a man suspected of planting the second car bomb, stabbed him to death, set his corpse on fire and hung it from a lamppost, according to a police officer.
Security forces later lowered it and carried it away, witnesses told AFP journalists at the scene.
Another car bomb in the Baghdad Jadidah area, which left three dead, also badly damaged nearby cars and shopfronts, an AFP journalist said.
Blasts also went off in other major Shiite neighbourhoods including Kadhimiyah and Sadr City, while five members of a Shiite family were shot dead in their home south of the capital.
Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, gave varying tolls, which is common in the chaotic aftermath of bombings in Baghdad.
The interior ministry, whose public casualty counts are typically markedly lower than those reported by hospital and security officials, said 20 people had died and more than 200 were wounded across the capital.
Iraqi lawmakers and the UN mission to Baghdad, meanwhile, condemned the violence, with the UN’s deputy special envoy noting that a “relentless wave of senseless killing has left thousands dead since April”.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni militants linked to Al-Qaeda frequently carry out such coordinated attacks targeting Shiite Muslims, whom they regard as apostates.
Wednesday’s attacks were the latest wave of coordinated bombings to hit Baghdad this month.
On August 6, at least eight car bombs and several roadside blasts killed 31 people, while 47 people died in a spate of explosions and gun attacks in the capital on August 10.
Five days later, 24 people died in nine bombings in Baghdad.
Iraq has seen a marked rise in the level of violence since the beginning of the year, coinciding with demonstrations by the country’s Sunni Arab minority against alleged ill treatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government and security forces.
More than 600 people have already been killed so far this month, according to an AFP tally.
Though diplomats and analysts have urged broad-reaching moves to tackle Sunni frustrations, which they say give militant groups room to recruit and carry out attacks, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has vowed to press on with an anti-militant campaign led by security forces.
In recent weeks, officials say security forces have dismantled militant training camps and bomb-making sites, arrested hundreds of alleged insurgents and killed dozens of others.
In addition to persistent security problems, though, the government has also failed to provide adequate basic services such as electricity and clean water, and corruption is widespread.
Political squabbling has also paralysed the government, which has passed almost no major legislation in years.