A series of car bombs near Shia mosques targeting worshippers attending weekly prayers killed at least 19 people on Friday, the latest deadly violence ahead of Iraq’s first polls since 2010.
The blasts, which also wounded 72 people, struck within an hour of each other in the Baghdad neighborhoods of Binook, Qahira, Zafraniyah and Jihad, as well as in an area of southern Kirkuk city.
No group immediately claimed the attacks, but militants linked to al-Qaeda frequently target Shia Muslims.
In Baghdad, four car bombs were detonated near mosques in the east and west of the capital, leaving at least 12 people dead and 25 wounded, security and medical officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
And in Kirkuk, which lies 240 kilometers north of the capital, three people died and 70 were hurt by another car bomb targeting a mosque, provincial health chief Sadiq Omar Rasul said.
Security forces threatened to detain AFP journalists for attempting to film video and take photographs of the aftermath of the violence in Baghdad.
The attacks come amid a spike in violence nationwide as the country prepares for its first elections in three years – provincial polls that will be held in 12 of Iraq’s 18 provinces on April 20.
Questions have been raised over the credibility of those polls as elections have been postponed in two provinces roiled by months of protests, and at least 11 candidates have been killed.
This month’s death toll of 256 is already the highest since August, according to figures compiled by AFP.