Wave of blasts rocks Shiite areas across Iraq

Five bombs have rocked Shiite areas in Baghdad and southern Iraq, killing at least 78 and wounding more than a hundred. One more bomb was defused by police in the area where the first two blasts occurred.

In the first and largest attack, police officials said a motorbike bomb went off near a bus stop in the Sadr city area in Baghdad where day laborers gather looking for work. Half an hour later, a roadside bomb exploded near a small tea shop in the same neighborhood.

Baghdad : Iraqis look inside a bus damaged from shrapnel after a booby-trapped motorcycle exploded near a group of day labourers waiting to pick up work, on January 5, 2012 in the Shiite district of Sadr City, north of Baghdad.  (AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)
Baghdad : Iraqis look inside a bus damaged from shrapnel after a booby-trapped motorcycle exploded near a group of day labourers waiting to pick up work, on January 5, 2012 in the Shiite district of Sadr City, north of Baghdad. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

­"I was heading to my work when the strong blast took place. I saw thick, black smoke coming from the area. Now, people have real fears that the cycle of violence might be revived in this country," said Tariq Annad, 52, a government employee.

Iraqis look at blood and shattered glass at the site where a booby-trapped motorcycle exploded near a group of day labourers waiting to pick up work.  (AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)
Iraqis look at blood and shattered glass at the site where a booby-trapped motorcycle exploded near a group of day labourers waiting to pick up work. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Less than two hours later, two blasts struck the Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah in the north of the capital, killing 14 people. Officials said the Kazimiyah blasts occurred almost simultaneously, with at least one caused by a car bomb.

An al-Qaeda front group in Iraq claimed responsibility for the Baghdad blasts.

People grieve outside a morgue before claiming the body of a relative who was killed in a bomb attack in Sadr city in eastern Baghdad (REUTERS/Kareem Raheem)
People grieve outside a morgue before claiming the body of a relative who was killed in a bomb attack in Sadr city in eastern Baghdad (REUTERS/Kareem Raheem)

Later in the day police also reported a roadside bomb explosion in the southern city of Nassiriya. They said the bomb, targeting Shiite pilgrims, killed at least five and wounded 20 others.

Thursday’s blasts followed a series of deadly attacks on Wednesday in the cities of Baqouba and Abu Ghraib outside Baghdad, that targeted the homes of police officers and a member of a government-allied militia. Four people, including two children, were killed.

A resurgence of Sunni and Shiite militants and an increase in violence have come in the wake of the US troop withdrawal, which was completed last month. On top of that, Iraqi politicians remain deadlocked in a festering political crisis that threatens to re-ignite simmering sectarian tensions in the country.