Middle East

Deadly blasts hit Baghdad markets

Remains of a bombed vegetable market in Basra, 340 miles (550km) south-east of Baghdad (15 September 2013)
Image caption Thousands of people have been killed in sectarian bombings every month in Iraq

At least 23 people have been killed in blasts targeting markets in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, officials say.

Bombs in the Shia Sabaa al-Bour area, north of Baghdad, killed up to 16 people. More than 40 others were reportedly injured as the area was packed with shoppers.

A blast in the Sunni Dora district, south of Baghdad, killed seven people.

Sectarian violence has surged across Iraq in recent months, reaching its highest level since 2008.

More than 5,000 people have died so far this year in Iraq, 800 of them in August alone, according to the United Nations.

The worsening violence is also seen a spill-over from the conflict in Syria, which has taken on increasingly sectarian overtones.

There are fears of a return to the all-out Sunni-Shia sectarian violence that peaked in 2006-2007 and killed tens of thousands of people.

In recent weeks, Iraqi security forces have reportedly arrested hundreds of alleged al-Qaeda members in and around Baghdad as part of a campaign which the Shia-led government is calling "Revenge for the martyrs".

But the operations, which have taken place mostly in Sunni districts, have angered the majority Sunni community and failed to halt the violence.

Diplomats say that the government's failure to address Sunni grievances - both their political exclusion and abuses against them by the security forces - are the main factors behind the rise in violence.