Middle East

Baghdad Shia districts targeted in deadly Iraq attacks

Site of bomb attack in Kirkuk, 15 May
Image caption At least 10 people were killed in a separate bomb attack in the northern city of Kirkuk

At least 34 people have been killed in series of bomb attacks across Iraq, several of which targeted mainly Shia districts of Baghdad, officials say.

Eleven blasts in the space of an hour in the capital left 23 people dead and more than 100 others injured.

Bomb attacks also killed at least 10 people in the northern city of Kirkuk.

Iraq has seen a sharp increase in sectarian violence in recent weeks amid growing tension between minority Sunni Arabs and the Shia-led government.

Although the violence is less deadly than that seen during the heights of the insurgency in 2006 and 2007, it is the most widespread since the US military withdrawal in 2011. More than 700 people were killed in April.

'Bright flash'

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Baghdad reports that the news of the bombings in the capital came suddenly on Wednesday evening.

Officials said 11 bombs were detonated between 20:00 and 21:00 local time (17:00-18:00 GMT) in predominantly Shia districts. Most were car bombs, at least two targeting restaurants, they added.

The districts affected were Kadhimiya and Sadr City in the north; Husseiniya, Mashtal and Baghdad al-Jadida in the east; and Saidiya and Zafaraniya in the south.

Sadr City was worst affected, with three bombs killing seven people and wounding another 37.

"I saw a bright flash followed by a strong explosion that shook the building. Glass was shattered everywhere, people immediately ran to the scene and started evacuating the wounded and the dead," a local policeman told the AFP news agency.

A police patrol was also hit by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle in the town of Tarmiya, 50km (30 miles) north of Baghdad, killing two policemen, officials said.

In Kirkuk, a car packed with explosives blew up near a government building in the city centre, killing eight people. An hour later, another car bomb exploded in the same area, killing two children.

The violence seen across Iraq over the past month was triggered by an army raid on a Sunni anti-government protest camp near the northern town of Hawija that left 50 people dead.

The demonstrators accused the goverment of Prime Minister Maliki, a Shia, of targeting the Sunni community.

'International engagement needed'

Speaking to the BBC before the latest bombings, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari blamed the sectarian violence on the conflict in Syria and a lack of interest in Iraq from the rest of the world.

"Iraq still needs the commitment of the international community to overcome its recent difficulties," he said.

"As for the violence, whenever there is political division in the country, violence and terrorist attacks will increase."

Our correspondent says Sunni Islamist extremist groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq, seem able to attack at will.

In his BBC interview, Mr Zebari also raised concern about the agreement between the Turkish government and the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which will see about 2,000 fighters move across the border into northern Iraq, where they already have bases.

In return, the Turkish government says it will address some of the grievances of the country's Kurdish community.

Mr Zebari said Ankara should not be making direct deals with the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan alone.

He said the agreement "should not be at the expense or the interest of its neighbours and there hasn't been any consultation with the Iraqi government on this".