BAGHDAD — Five car bombs ripped through neighborhoods across Baghdad late Wednesday, killing at least 48 people, wounding scores more and further raising concerns that a new wave of violence is threatening the security gains of the last 18 months.
The bombings came after the deaths of nearly 160 people in a 24-hour period late last week marked the worst surge of violence in a year. The attacks in recent days, all appearing to target Shiite Muslim civilians, have raised fears that the Sunni insurgency is regrouping for a fresh campaign of violence that could in turn trigger retaliation and reignite the sectarian warfare that only recently subsided.
U.S. troops are due to withdraw from Iraq's cities by the end of June, and the attacks have deepened concerns that the Iraqi security forces are not up to the job of taking charge from the departing Americans.
Iraqi officials have blamed the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq, operating in tandem with remnants of the late Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, for the uptick in violence. Last week's bombings were suicide attacks, a hallmark of Al Qaeda in Iraq, but the provenance of the five car bombings is murkier and could be traced to any number of factions.
Survivors of an attack Wednesday in Sadr City, a Shiite enclave in northeast Baghdad, turned their wrath on the security forces, hurling bottles and bricks at police and army troops until soldiers fired in the air to disperse them. Witnesses said they blamed the army, which controls the area, for the lapses in security that allowed three cars laden with bombs to enter what should be a closely guarded market area.
"The army is not playing its role," said Sabah Mohammed, 45, a salesman who was on his way to an outdoor flea market to buy a tracksuit when two bombs exploded. "When the army first came to Sadr City, I was happy, but now all they care about is hitting on girls and women. They don't inspect incoming cars. They only inspect them if there are women inside."
The bombings in Sadr City occurred about 400 yards apart, at the market and a restaurant, and within 15 minutes of each other in the late afternoon, when the market is usually packed with people hunting for secondhand clothes and other bargains. At least 41 people were killed and 78 wounded.
The third car bomb was found by police and defused.
A little less than an hour later, an explosion in the southern neighborhood of Dora killed five people. Two more people were later killed by a bomb in a car parked outside a Shiite mosque in the western neighborhood of Hurriya. A fifth blast in the southern neighborhood of Shorta Rabaa wounded six.
Three other car bombs were found and defused elsewhere in the city, suggesting a coordinated effort to wreak havoc and sow panic across Baghdad.
"How is this possible?" asked Adnan Dawood, 35, a furniture shop owner who tried to flee the first of the two blasts in Sadr City and then was knocked unconscious by the second.
"There are three entrances to Sadr City and all are overseen by army checkpoints," he said, speaking by telephone from his hospital bed. "What is the army doing? Are they there for only oppressing and arresting people?
"If this continues to happen, then no one can be able to make their living," he added. "I'm afraid to go back to my shop again. I think the attacks will occur again."
Hameed writes for The Times.
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Major bombings this year
Deadliest attacks in Iraq since Jan. 1, when a new U.S.-Iraqi security pact took effect:
April 29: Twin car bombs tear through Baghdad's Sadr City, killing 41.
April 24: Back-to-back suicide bombers strike near Shiite shrine in Baghdad, killing 71.
April 23: Baghdad suicide bomber hits Iraqis collecting humanitarian aid, killing 31.
April 23: Suicide bomber strikes restaurant in Muqdadiya, killing 57.
April 6: Series of bombings within four hours in Baghdad kills 37.
March 26: Car bomb tears through market in Shiite area in east Baghdad, killing 20.
March 23: Suicide bomber strikes Kurdish funeral in Jalawla, killing 27.
March 10: Suicide bomber targets tribal leaders at market in Baghdad's western suburb of Abu Ghraib, killing 33.
March 8: Suicide bomber strikes police academy in Baghdad, killing at least 30.
March 5: Car bomb tears through livestock market in Hillah, killing 13.
Feb. 13: Female suicide bomber targets Shiite pilgrims in Musayyib, killing 40.
Feb. 11: Twin car bombs explode at a bus terminal and market area in Baghdad, killing 16.
Jan. 4: Female suicide bomber strikes Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad, killing 38.
Jan. 2: Suicide bomber hits luncheon at a tribal leader's home in Yousifiya, killing 23.
Source: Associated Press