Car bomb spree kills 63 in Baghdad
Eleven car bombs rocked Shia neighbourhoods of Baghad on Tuesday killing at least 63 people amid growing concern that Sunni militants are taking advantage of a persistent power vacuum seven months after an inconclusive general election.
Another 285 people were wounded in the bombings, which came just two days after al-Qaeda gunmen stormed a church in the heart of the capital and took dozens of worshippers hostage, with 46 of them killed in a drama that ended with a raid by Iraqi special forces.
"Sixty-three people were killed and 285 wounded in 11 car bombings. All of the explosions happened at the same time," an interior ministry official said.
The bombs targeted Shia districts of the capital, and some exploded near cafes or restaurants.
The biggest were in the northern Kadhimiyah and eastern Husseiniyah districts. The first killed six people and wounded 26. The second killed four and wounded 34, a ministry official said.
The interior ministry imposed an immediate curfew on the targeted areas of east Baghdad, over and above the nightly ban on movement in force across the capital from midnight to 5:00 am.
Iraq has been without a government since an inconclusive March 7 election, in which the Shia-led State of Law bloc of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki finished a narrow second behind Iyad Allawi's mainly Sunni-backed Iraqiya group.
Both have been locked in back-room negotiations with different political blocs, but neither has been able to muster the majority needed to form a government.
The power vacuum has contributed to an increasing sense of insecurity, with militants seen as seeking to take advantage.
Tuesday's bombings and the attacks on Christians come as Iraq is trying to get back on its feet after the US-led invasion of 2003 and the sectarian bloodletting that followed between the Shia majority and the ousted Sunni Arab elite.
The bombings are a fresh blow to the country's efforts to attract foreign investment and technology to rebuild the war-wrecked country.