Four car bombs struck two outdoor markets in Baghdad and a town south of the Iraqi capital on Friday, killing at least 20 people and wounding dozens, officials have said.
The blasts were the latest in a series of attacks by insurgents seeking to re-ignite sectarian violence and undermine the Shiite-led government’s efforts in maintaining security.
The bombings targeted an outdoor pet market in Baghdad’s northern Kazimyah neighbourhood and a vegetable market in the town of Shomali in Hillah province, south of the Iraqi capital.
Every Friday, Iraqis converge on markets to shop and spend family time during the Muslim weekend. Markets are a frequent target for militants who seek to inflict large numbers of casualties.
In Baghdad, the first car bomb exploded around mid-morning at the entrance to the Kazimyah market, two police officers said.
When panicked shoppers tried to flee the area, a second parked car exploded a few yards away, according to the officers.
At least 14 people were killed and 42 were wounded in the two blasts, police said. All the victims were civilians.
About an hour later, two car bombs exploded simultaneously at the Shomali market, killing at least six people and wounding 15, two police officers said.
Health officials confirmed the casualty figures in each attack. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to release information.
Despite a drop in violence since the worst sectarian fighting in 2006-2007, insurgents carry out near-daily attacks on security forces and civilians in an attempt to undermine the Shiite-led government.