A series of attacks including car bombings in Baghdad, an explosion at a market and a suicide assault in a northern city killed at least 66 people Sunday across Iraq, officials said, the latest in a wave of violence washing over the country.
The attacks come as Iraq’s prime minister prepares to travel to Washington to seek U.S. President Barack Obama’s help in confronting a wave of sectarian violence fueled by Syria’s civil war.
Killings, mostly blamed by the Shiite-led government on Sunni Islamists from Al-Qaeda, are running at daily rates not seen in five years, and Nouri al-Maliki will ask Obama Friday to speed up promised deliveries of drones and F-16 jets that he believes can help secure the long desert border with Syria.
Iraq’s own security forces, trained and equipped by the U.S. troops who withdrew in late 2011 after a nine-year occupation, have been unable to prevent a surge in violence, which has taken the civilian death toll so far this year to about 7,000. Sealing the Syrian border would only address part of the problem.
Sunday’s attacks were the deadliest single-day series of assaults since Oct. 5, when 75 people were killed.
Police officers said that the bombs in the capital, placed in parked cars and detonated over a half-hour period, targeted commercial areas and parking lots, killing 42 people.
The deadliest blasts struck in the southeastern Nahrwan district, where two car bombs exploded simultaneously, killing seven and wounding 15, authorities said. Two other explosions hit the northern Shaab and southern Abu Dashir neighborhoods, each killing six people, officials said. Other blasts hit the neighborhoods of Mashtal, Baladiyat and Ur in eastern Baghdad, the southwestern Bayaa district and the northern Sab al-Bor and Hurriyah districts.
Meanwhile, in the northern city of Mosul, a suicide bomber drove his explosives-laden car into a group of soldiers as they were sealing off a street leading to a bank where troops were receiving salaries, killing 14, a police officer said. At least 30 people were wounded, the officer said. Also in Mosul, police said gunmen shot dead two off-duty soldiers in a drive-by shooting.
The former insurgent stronghold of Mosul is located about 360 kilometers northwest of Baghdad.
In the afternoon, a bomb blast killed four people and wounded 11 inside an outdoor market in the Sunni town of Tarmiyah, 50 kilometers north of Baghdad, authorities said.
Sunday night, police said mortar bombs landed on homes in a Shiite district of Madain, a town just south of Baghdad, killing four people and wounding nine, officials said.
Such coordinated attacks are a favorite tactic of Al-Qaeda’s local branch. It frequently targets civilians in markets, cafes and commercial streets in Shiite areas in an attempt to undermine confidence in the government, as well as members of the security forces. All of the car bombings Sunday in Baghdad struck Shiite neighborhoods.