Four large car bombs detonated in primarily Shiite areas in Baghdad on Wednesday killing at least 157 people and wounding scores more.
The biggest of the bombs went off in the crowded Sadriyah market in the center of the city killing at least 112 and wounding some 115, according to an official at a hospital where the victims were taken. A number of the dead were construction workers rebuilding the market after a bomb killed 137 people there in February.
A further bomb at a checkpoint at the entrance to Sadr City, Baghdad's biggest Shiite neighborhood, killed more than 30 people. A third explosion killed 11 near a private hospital in the central Karradah area with a fourth bombing gutting a minibus in the capital killing four more. All the bombs went off within a short span of time, leading authorities to suspect that they were part of a single coordinated attack.
The day of violence comes two months into a US-Iraqi security crackdown aimed at controlling the spiralling number of attacks in Baghdad. After some initial success, however, the number of attacks appears once again to be on the rise. Last week alone, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside the Iraqi parliament and another blast destroyed a bridge across the Tigris River, killing 10.
"We've seen both inspiring progress and too much evidence that we still face many grave challenges," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told reporters on Wednesday. "We've always said securing Baghdad would not be easy."
On Tuesday, six ministers loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr withdrew from Maliki's cabinet in protest at the prime minister's refusal to set a timetable for American withdrawal from Iraq. Many Iraqis increasingly blame US presence for the ongoing violence in the country and the walkout of the Sadr faction increases the pressure on Maliki to loosen his ties with the Americans.
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