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BAGHDAD — Car bombs tore through shopping areas within minutes of each other in mainly Shiite neighborhoods of the Iraqi capital Sunday, killing at least 37 people and wounding more than 100.
The attacks occurred amid rising sectarian discord in Iraq and appear aimed at shaking Iraqis’ confidence in the Shiite-led government. The explosions struck at the start of the local work week and primarily targeted outdoor markets.
Violence in Iraq has fallen since the height of sectarian fighting in 2006 and 2007, but insurgents still carry out lethal attacks against security forces and civilians. It was the third time this month that attacks have claimed more than 20 lives in a single day.
The attacks began with the detonation of a parked car loaded with explosives in the Shiite district of Sadr City Sunday morning. Two more parked cars later exploded elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Simultaneous explosions hit the southeastern Baghdad neighborhood of al-Amin, where the force of the blasts left behind little except the mangled chassis of two cars.
An open-air market in Husseiniya, just northeast of the capital, and the Ka-maliya area in Baghdad’s eastern suburbs were also hit.
Another car bomb exploded near street vendors and a police car in the central commercial district of Karradah.
Police and hospital officials provided the death toll, and said more than 130 people were wounded.
Authorities carried out controlled explosions of two other car bombs they discovered in Husseiniya and Habibiya, near Sadr City, according to police.
No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, but similar ones have been orchestrated by Sunni extremists, such as al-Qaeda’s local affiliate.
The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, favors large-scale, coordinated attacks. It considers Shiite Muslims to be heretics and accuses them of being too closely aligned with neighboring Shiite powerhouse Iran.
As sectarian strife increases, protesters drawn from Iraq’s Sunni community have been staging weekly demonstrations and sit-ins since late December. The protesters have rejected calls for violence and distance themselves from extremist groups such as al-Qaeda.
There are also concerns that Sunni insurgents could step up attacks ahead of provincial elections scheduled for April 20. The ballot would be the first countrywide vote since the U.S. troop withdrawal more than a year ago.