BAGHDAD: Three car bombs in Baghdad, including a huge blast at a market in a Shia area, killed at least 94 people on Wednesday, the bloodiest day in the Iraqi capital this year.
The attacks, the deadliest of which was claimed by the militant Islamic State (IS) group, came with the government locked in a political crisis that some have warned could undermine the fight against the militants.
The worst bombing struck the frequently targeted Sadr City area of northern Baghdad at around 10:00 am, killing at least 64 people and wounding 82 others, officials said.
The blast set nearby shops on fire and left debris including the charred, twisted remains of a vehicle in the street.
Dozens of angry people gathered at the scene of the bombing, blaming the government for the carnage.
“The state is in a conflict over (government positions) and the people are the victims,” said a man named Abu Ali.
“The state is responsible for the bombings that hit civilians,” the local resident said. The politicians “should all get out."
Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who spearheaded a protest movement demanding a cabinet reshuffle and other reforms, has a huge following in the working class neighbourhood of Sadr City, which was named after his father.
Another suicide car bomb attack killed at least 14 people at the entrance of the northwestern neighbourhood of Kadhimiya, which is home to an important Shia Muslim shrine.
Access to the neighbourhood, which has also been repeatedly targeted over the years, is heavily controlled.Several members of the security forces were among the victims, hospital sources said.
In the Jamea district in western Baghdad, another car bomb went off in the afternoon, killing at least eight people and wounding 21, an interior ministry official and medics told AFP.
IS issued an online statement claiming responsibility for the attack in Sadr City and saying a suicide bomber it identified as “Abu Sulaiman al-Ansari “detonated the explosives-rigged vehicle.
There was no immediate claim for the two subsequent bombings but all such attacks recently have been perpetrated by IS.
The UN's top envoy in Iraq, Jan Kubis, condemned the bloodshed.
“These are cowardly terrorist attacks on civilians who have done nothing but going about their normal daily lives,” he said.
IS, which overran large areas in 2014, considers Shias, who make up the majority of Iraq's population, to be heretics and often targets them with bombings.
Iraqi forces have regained significant ground from IS, but the militants still control a large part of western Iraq, and are able to carry out frequent bombings in government-held areas.
The months-old political crisis has led to repeated mass demonstrations that required a huge security deployment and hampered government action at a time when Iraq is still battling militants on several fronts.
Security forces are currently engaged in large-scale military operations in the provinces of Anbar and Nineveh as they close in on Fallujah and Mosul, IS's two major remaining hubs in Iraq.
The United States and the United Nations have warned the political impasse could undermine the fight against IS.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has sought to replace the cabinet of party-affiliated ministers with a government of technocrats, a move opposed by powerful parties that rely on control of ministries for patronage and funds.
Angry demonstrators last month broke into central Baghdad's fortified Green Zone and stormed parliament after lawmakers again failed to approve new ministers.
While the protesters withdrew the following day, parliament has still yet to hold another session.
Zainab al-Tai, a lawmaker from Sadr's political movement, said the most recent efforts to resume the parliamentary process were still floundering Wednesday.
“Some disagreements remain, there is no session and we have yet to set a date for the next session,” she told AFP.
“Parliament is divided in three groups... I don't think we can reach a result, the decision will be in the hands of the people,” she added.