Suicide bombers and gunmen killed at least 76 people in Iraq on Monday, Reuters reported medical and police sources as saying, in attacks mostly targeting Shiite Muslims, who mark a big religious festival next week.
A spate of car bombs and roadside bombs in mainly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad killed at least 27 people and wounded scores, police and medical sources said.
Two car explosions in al-Bayaa and al-Nahda areas also caused several causalities.
Three car bombs and one magnetic "sticky bomb" attached to a vehicle also wounded at least 25 others, AFP reported.
A curfew has been declared in Baiji, 180 km north of Baghdad, after an attack at a police station had aimed to release dozens of prisoners, an Al Arabiya correspondent reported.
Two blew themselves up inside the station, killing five policemen. The other two did the same about an hour later as Iraqi Special Forces counter-attacked, the sources said.
“We believe the attack was aimed at freeing detainees who are being held in the building next door,” Major Salih al-Qaisi, a police officer at the scene, told Reuters.
“All the militants were killed before they reached the police department building where the detainees are held.”
Meanwhile, a car bomb was detonated at the city council headquarters in Tikrit, and then militants reportedly occupied the building, police officers told Agence France-Presse.
There were still an unknown number of employees in the building, but an Al Arabiya correspondent reported that the Tikrit council leader and several council hostages were held hostage.
Later, Iraqi security hostages at the Tikrit city council headquarters were reported to have been freed.
“We freed all the hostages... and our forces killed one suicide (bomber), but two others blew themselves up,” Sabah Noori, spokesman for Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service, told AFP.
A curfew was also declared in Tikrit and schools were evacuated following the attack.
The Interior Ministry put the toll for the attacks in Baiji and Tikrit at 11 dead, including the suicide bombers, and three wounded.
Militants also gunned down 12 people on a bus in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, police and a morgue employee told AFP.
After the deadly attacks, Iraq issued high alert across the country.
The explosions come a day after gunmen murdered a female TV presenter in the same city on Sunday, making her the sixth journalist killed in less than three months.
Infographic: Iraq deadly day
After the spate of attacks, two car bombs later targeted Shiite pilgrims south of Baghdad, killing at least 22 people, raising the death toll to 76, security officials said.
The twin blasts in the Rashid area also wounded at least 52 people, the sources said.
Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them on foot, make pilgrimages to the holy city of Karbala during the 40 days after the annual commemoration marking the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Imam Hussein.
The 40th day, known as Arbaeen, falls on December 23 this year.
Sunni militants including those linked to al-Qaeda frequently target members of Iraq’s Shiite majority, whom they consider to be apostates.
This year has been Iraq’s most violent since 2006-7, when tens of thousands died in strife between Sunnis and Shiites.
(With AFP)SHOW MORE