Iraq car bombs cause carnage around Baghdad

Iraqis inspect the site of a car bomb in a commercial area in the Hurriyah neighborhood of northern Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 3, 2014. AP

BAGHDAD -- A new series of car bombings in and around Baghdad on Monday killed at least 16 people, officials said, as Iraq's Shiite-led government grapples with a stubborn Sunni extremist-led insurgency in the western Anbar province.

In the town of Mahmoudiya, a car bomb went off near the local council building, followed by another at an outdoor market nearby, a police officer said. The blasts in the town, located about 20 miles south of Baghdad, killed nine people and wounded 28.

In Baghdad, an explosives-laden car ripped through a commercial area in the northern Hurriyah neighborhood, killing four people and wounding 11, he added. Three bystanders were killed and nine were wounded in another car bomb explosion in the city's eastern Baladiyat neighborhood, another police officer said.

Police also found four bodies dumped in the street of the capital's southwestern Amil neighborhood. The four, three men and a woman, had suffered gun shots and had no ID cards.

Medical officials confirmed the causality figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to media.

    No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks but coordinated bombings bear the hallmarks of al Qaeda's affiliate -- or former affiliate -- in Iraq. The group, emboldened by the successes of its fellow militants in the civil war next door in Syria and by widespread Sunni anger at the Iraqi government, has taken credit for previous attacks against Shiites, security forces and government buildings.

The attacks came as al Qaeda's central leadership announced it was severing ties with the largest Sunni militant group in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL). The group, previously known simply as al Qaeda in Iraq, spread beyond the nation's western border into Syria early in that country's civil war. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has repeatedly refused to abide by the wishes of al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri, however, leading to the public disavowing of the group in a statement by al Qaeda released on Monday.

Meanwhile, in Iraq's western Anbar province, fierce fighting has been raging for over a month between government forces and allied tribal militiamen on one side, and ISIS militants on the other. Since late last month, the militants have seized parts of the provincial capital, Ramadi, and the city center of the nearby city of Fallujah.

Also on Monday, a Defense Ministry statement said military operations overnight in Ramadi killed 57 militants. The statement didn't say whether the militants were killed in clashes or airstrikes. In Fallujah, security forces are still besieging the city, with sporadic clashes taking place on its outskirts.

Violence has escalated in Iraq over the past year. Last year, the country saw the highest death toll since the worst of the country's sectarian bloodletting began to subside in 2007, according to United Nations figures. The U.N. said violence killed 8,868 last year in Iraq.

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