At least 40 people have been killed and 87 injured after a series of blasts rocked Baghdad, some of them near the heavily-fortified Green Zone where key government offices are located, Iraqi officials said.
The deadliest of Wednesday’s attacks took place across the street from the Foreign Ministry building, when two parked car bombs went off simultaneously in two different parking lots. Those explosions killed at least seven people and wounded 15, a police officer said.
Shortly afterwards, a suicide bomber walked into a nearby falafel restaurant where he set off his explosives-laden belt, killing five people and wounding 12, the officer added.
The restaurant and others around it are often used by officials or visitors waiting for security escorts to take them inside the Green Zone.
Also on Wednesday morning, a parked car bomb went off in Khilani Square in the Iraqi capital’s commercial centre, killing four people and wounding eight, another police officer said.
Two medical officials confirmed the causality figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to talk to media.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings.
The blasts happened a day after two rockets were fired into the Green Zone, home to the prime minister’s office and Western embassies, and are likely to heighten concerns about Iraq’s ability to protect strategic sites as security deteriorates.
The incidents come amid the worst surge in bloodshed in more than five years, raising fears Iraq is slipping back into the sectarian violence that left tens of thousands dead in 2006 and 2007.
According to UN figures, 2013 had the highest death toll since the worst of the country’s sectarian bloodletting. The UN said violence killed 8,868 last year.
Troops make slow progress in Anbar
The al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) have been involved in fighting security forces in Anbar province, a mostly Sunni desert region bordering Syria where fighters have for weeks held parts of Ramadi and all of Fallujah, which lies on Baghdad’s doorstep.
Along with ISIL, other armed groups and anti-government tribes have fought forces loyal to the central government, which has together led to a rise in casualties over the past recent months.
Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane said the trend of violence has grown in the past few months. “In November of last year, 903 civlians were killed. That rose to 983 during December, while last month 1,076 civilians were killed,” he said.
Security forces and pro-government tribal fighters have made slow progress in Ramadi after days of heavy clashes, and late on Tuesday had retaken several neighbourhoods, according to officers and an AFP journalist.
Families will be allowed to return to their homes within days, a general leading the operation said, after security forces checked the areas for booby-traps and bombs.