By Sameer N. Yacoub
BAGHDAD: A series of bombings targeting commercial areas of Baghdad killed 22 people as residents were heading out on the town Thursday evening in a new spasm of violence to strike the Iraqi capital, according to Iraqi officials.
The attacks happened within minutes of each other, suggesting a coordinated assault favored by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaida-inspired group that is behind much of the bloodshed in Iraq.
The evening’s first attack was also the deadliest.
A car bomb exploded after sunset in a commercial street in the Sunni-dominated northern neighborhood of Azamiyah, killing 12 people and wounding 28. Thursday night is a popular time for Iraqis to go out, as the local weekend begins the following day.
Minutes later, another bomb exploded near a market in the same neighborhood, killing seven and wounding 27.
Those blasts were followed by an explosion in a shopping street in the capital’s Aamiriyah district, killing three people and wounding 15 others.
Medics confirmed the casualties for all attacks. All officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The blasts struck little more than a month before Iraqis head to the polls in parliamentary elections scheduled for April 30, the country’s first since U.S. troops left in late 2011.
No group immediately claimed responsibility, but the attacks bore the hallmarks of ISIL. The extremist group frequently uses car bombs and suicide attacks to target public areas in their bid to undermine confidence in the government.
Violence has escalated in Iraq over the past year.
Last year, the country saw its highest death toll since the worst of the country’s sectarian bloodletting began to subside in 2007, according to United Nations figures.