Middle East

Iraq violence: Dozens killed by Baghdad bombings

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Media captionThe BBC's Youssef Taha: "It's an operation that would attract a lot of media attention, but it's a major embarrassment for the prime minister"

A series of bombings across the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has left more than 50 people dead and scores injured.

At least eight separate attacks took place across the city within one hour on Saturday evening, targeting mainly Shia neighbourhoods.

Earlier in the day, militants stormed a university campus in the western city of Anbar, briefly taking dozens of students hostage.

Dozens of people have also been killed in attacks in Mosul since Friday.

The violence in Iraq has peaked again and reached levels not seen since the heights of the sectarian conflict of the last decade.

The UN says more than 8,000 people were killed last year, the highest figure since 2007.

The government has blamed the rising bloodshed on Sunni militants, linking it to the conflict in neighbouring Syria. But critics accuse Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Shia-led government of alienating Iraq's Sunni minority.

Students held hostage

Among the neighbourhoods attacked on Saturday were western Baiyaa district, where reports of the death toll varied. Reuters said 23 were killed, many of them young people playing billiards. The Associated Press put the number killed there at nine.

No group immediately claimed to have carried out the attacks, but Sunni militants have frequently targeted Shias in the past year.

In the early hours of Saturday, militants believe to be from the al-Qaeda splinter group the Islamist State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) stormed a university campus in Ramadi, in western Anbar province.

Image caption Some of the students managed to flee the Anbar University campus
Image caption Security forces cordoned off the area

They held students hostage in their dormitories for several hours before retreating under fire.

There were reports that at least two security guards had been killed, while one hospital reported receiving the bodies of a student and a policeman.

But Sabah Karhout, the head of Anbar's provincial council, said the raid had "ended almost peacefully and no student was hurt as far as I know".

Islamist State in Iraq and the Levant - ISIS

  • Jihadist group formed in April 2013 and grew out of al-Qaeda's affiliate organisation in Iraq
  • Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and has an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 fighters
  • Mostly active in Iraq and Syria where it has carried out dozens of deadly attacks
  • Imposes strict Islamic rule in the areas it controls.

Profile: Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)

Anbar is a focal point of Iraq's rising sectarian violence, with a number of areas - including Ramadi - controlled by Sunni militants.

On Friday, dozens of people died in fighting between Sunni insurgents and government troops in Mosul.

It was the third major assault by insurgents in as many days following raids on Mosul in the north and the central city of Samarra.

The fighting continued in Mosul on Saturday, with at least 59 people killed as militants battled security forces for control.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Parts of Ramadi have been under the control of militants for months
Image copyright UN

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