Bomb attacks kill 59 in Baghdad and Baquba
Half a dozen attacks struck two majority-Shiite neighborhoods and two confessionally-mixed districts
A series of bomb attacks on Wednesday targeted areas within the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and a village near the northern town of Baquba killing at least 59 people and injuring dozens more, police and hospital sources said, according to Reuters news agency.
In Baghdad, half a dozen attacks struck two majority-Shiite neighborhoods and two confessionally-mixed districts, officials said.
Wednesday’s bombing in the capital took place in the northern neighborhood of Shula, where a parked car bomb exploded in an outdoor market, killing five shoppers and wounding 12.
Another car bomb in the commercial area of central Karrada area killed four civilians and wounded 14, police said.
Police also said that three civilians were killed and eight were wounded by a bomb in another market in the eastern Maamil area.
The violence occurred amid a continuing standoff between the Iraqi army and Sunni militants who overran the city of Falluja west of Baghdad more than two weeks ago in a challenge to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government.
Iraq remains gripped by violence as al-Qaeda-linked fighters took control of two cities in Anbar province, west of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces lost more ground in crisis-hit Anbar province on Wednesday as Sunni gunmen, including those linked to al-Qaeda, overran two key areas when police abandoned their posts, officials said.
The losses mark a second day of setbacks for Baghdad as it seeks to retake territory on the capital's doorstep from militants, who hold all of the former insurgent bastion of Fallujah and parts of the nearby Anbar provincial capital Ramadi.
The latest unrest comes amid a deadly, weeks-long crisis in the province, a mostly desert region in western Iraq bordering conflict-ravaged Syria, ahead of national parliamentary polls on April 30.
Diplomats, including U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, have urged Baghdad to pursue political reconciliation to resolve the standoff and a protracted surge in nationwide violence, but Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ruled out dialogue with militants.
On Wednesday, police forces abandoned their posts in two key areas of Anbar, giving up territory to heavily-armed militants who forced the men to leave their weapons behind, officials and witnesses said.
"We gave ourselves up, and we gave up our arms to Daash," one policemen, who did not want to be named, told Agence France-Presse from the town of Saqlawiyah, referring to the commonly-used Arabic name for the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.