Iraqis gather at the site of a car bombing in Baghdad, one of several blasts… (European Pressphoto Agency )
BAGHDAD — In apparently coordinated attacks, at least 10 bombings shattered Iraqi neighborhoods Monday, killing at least 53 people, injuring more than 200 and contributing to fears that the country's tenuous hold on security is slipping away.
The bombs went off in and around mostly Shiite Muslim areas of Baghdad, the capital, at markets and other public areas that were teeming with civilians, and primarily were planted in cars or on motorcycles, authorities said. No group claimed responsibility, but the bombings were consistent with others carried out by the Al Qaeda affiliate known as the Islamic State of Iraq.
This has been the bloodiest spring in Iraq since 2008 — and certainly since U.S. forces pulled out a year and a half ago — with hundreds killed in sectarian violence between the majority Shiites and the Sunnis who were dominant when Saddam Hussein was in power.
The targeted areas included some of the most heavily secured parts of the city, including central Baghdad, where a blast near the Sheraton Hotel killed six people and injured 21. They also included the sprawling Shiite district of Sadr City, where a bomb left four dead and 26 injured.
News reports put the number of dead as high as 66, but residents said they believed the actual death toll may be higher. There was no way to independently verify the casualty numbers.
The first of the bombings took place about 6 p.m. in Baghdad's central Sadriya area, which is popular among Shiites. An Interior Ministry spokesman said six people died and 21 were injured when bombs exploded in two cars and one motorcycle. Among the others were attacks in the southern neighborhood of Bayaa that killed seven and injured 38, one in the northern area of Hurriya that left five dead and 13 injured and one near the Diyala Bridge in east Baghdad that killed six and injured 26. At least 19 people died in bombings in other neighborhoods.
The surge in violence in Iraq is widely considered to have begun after government security forces opened fire on a Sunni protest camp in the town of Hawija in April, killing about 45 people. Since then, Sunnis have struck back in a series of attacks in predominantly Shiite areas.
"They transformed the political crisis into a series of local conflicts in the Sunni-populated provinces," Iraq analyst Maria Fantappie of the International Crisis Group told the Associated Press. "As it stands, the risk is a metastasis of armed clashes across these provinces."
Alwan is a special correspondent. The Associated Press contributed to this report.