Spate of Baghdad blasts kill 24

BAGHDAD (AFP) - A wave of attacks, most of them car bombs targeting Shi'ite neighbourhoods, rocked Baghdad early on Wednesday, killing at least 24 people in the latest bout of bloodshed to rock Iraq.

The violence, which left 65 others wounded, comes amid a protracted surge in violence just months ahead of general elections that has forced Iraqi officials to appeal for international help in combatting the country's worst unrest since 2008.

At least seven explosions, including six car bombs, hit Shi'ite Muslim neighbourhoods of the Iraqi capital, according to security and medical officials, from about 7:30 am onwards.

They come after similarly coordinated bombings in Baghdad on Sunday evening left 21 dead.

Wednesday's attacks occurred in areas ranging from the city's main commercial district of Karrada to the predominantly Shiite neighbourhood of Shaab, as well as Sadriyah, one of Baghdad's oldest areas.

One car bomb also went off in the Sunni-majority neighbourhood of Adhamiyah in north Baghdad, the officials said.

Security forces imposed tough measures in areas hit by attacks, in many cases barring journalists from filming video or taking photographs at bombing sites.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the violence, but Sunni militants linked to Al-Qaeda's front group often set off coordinated bombings across Baghdad, typically targeting Shi'ites, whom they regard as apostates.

The unrest is part of a surge in bloodshed that has pushed violence to its highest level since 2008, when Iraq was recovering from the worst of its Sunni-Shiite sectarian war.

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