Middle East

Dozens killed in Iraq bomb attacks

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionFootage showed the aftermath of some of the blasts in Baghdad

At least 73 people have been killed in a series of bombings in central Iraq, police and medical officials say.

Sixteen died in an attack on a funeral for a pro-government Sunni militiaman in a village south of Baquba, the capital of Diyala province.

Nine car bombs meanwhile exploded across Baghdad, killing at least 37 people and wounding dozens more.

There has been a surge in sectarian violence across Iraq in the past year, reaching levels not seen since 2007.

The United Nations says 7,818 civilians and 1,050 members of the security forces died in 2013. December alone saw at least 759 killed.

'Long battle'

In Wednesday's deadliest incident, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a funeral tent in the village of Buhriz where mourners were marking the death two days ago of a member of a local Sahwa, or Awakening Council, set up Sunni Arab tribesmen to fight al-Qaeda.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The bomb attacks in Baghdad targeted both mainly Shia and confessionally-mixed districts
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The UN's secretary general has urged Iraq's leaders to address the "root causes" of the unrest

The car bomb attacks that shook Baghdad started at about 10:30 (07:30) and continued for about an hour, striking busy markets in mostly in predominantly Shia districts of the capital but also in mixed areas.

Five shoppers were killed and 12 others wounded when a car blew up at an outdoor market in the northern Shula district, police officials said. In nearby Shaab, a car bombing killed four civilians and wounded 14.

Two car bomb blasts in separate locations in the central area of Karrada meanwhile killed six civilians and wounded 24. Another four were killed in the southern suburb of Husseiniya, and three in Maamil, to the east.

Thirteen people, including nine soldiers, were killed in and around the northern city of Mosul, according to the AFP news agency. Six of the soldiers died when a roadside bomb was detonated as they crossed a bridge at Ain al-Jahash.

Wednesday's violence comes amid a continuing stand-off between security forces and Sunni militants aligned to al-Qaeda who seized control of the city of Falluja, west of Baghdad, more than two weeks ago.

The militants launched co-ordinated attacks to the north of the city on Tuesday, destroying two army tanks and capturing a police station.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shia, has vowed to eradicate the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), but has ruled out an assault on Falluja, saying residents must force the group to leave.

The militants were also reported to have made gains on Tuesday in Ramadi, the nearby capital of Anbar province, which they briefly controlled at the start of the month before being ousted by security forces and pro-government Sahwa militiamen.

After meeting Mr Maliki in Baghdad on Monday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Iraq's leaders to address the "root causes" of the unrest and "ensure that there is nobody left behind".

Mr Ban called for political and social cohesion, and "inclusive dialogue".

But the prime minister insisted that what was happening in Anbar had "no relation to Iraqi problems" and rejected the UN appeal for dialogue.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Iraq's prime minister has refused calls for dialogue with Sunni militants who have taken control of Falluja

On Wednesday, Mr Maliki appealed for international support in his weekly televised address, warning: "The battle will be long and will continue."

"If we keep silent it means the creation of evil statelets that would wreak havoc with security in the region and the world."

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that nearly 12,000 people displaced by the fighting were "enduring considerable hardship."

"People are struggling to cope with the cold as blankets, mattresses and food are lacking," it said in a statement.

Clashes erupted in Falluja and Ramadi after troops dismantled protest camps in the predominantly Sunni cities.

Local Sunnis had been demonstrating for months against what they perceive as discrimination by the Shia-led government and unfair targeting of their minority community by anti-terrorism measures implemented to stem the surge in sectarian violence.

Related Topics