The White House has condemned a series of bombings across Baghdad that killed at least 69 people and wounded more than 100 on May 17, saying the “barbaric” attacks had intentionally targeted civilians.
The bombings, carried out in mostly Shi’ite neighborhoods of the Iraqi capital, appear to be testing the unity of rival Shi'ite militia forces in Iraq.
The deadliest attack was at an outdoor market in the northern district of Al-Shaab. Claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS) militant group, it killed 44 civilians.
An initial bomb blast there was followed by an attack by a female suicide bomber who blew herself up inside the marketplace.
Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi ordered the arrest of the head of security of Al-Shaab after the explosions.
At nearly the same time, a car bomb in Baghdad’s southern Al-Rashid neighborhood killed at least six and wounded 21 people.
Later, a car bomb at a marketplace in Baghdad’s mainly Shi'ite neighborhood of Sadr City killed at least 15 people and injured more than 30.
More than 100 people have been killed in a wave of bomb and gun attacks in and around Baghdad during the past six days.
Although suspicion has fallen on Sunni-led IS militants for the bombings, the violence comes amid a power struggle within Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim community and stalled attempts to form a new government.
Rival Shi’ite militia fighters came close to taking up arms against each other in April when followers of the powerful Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed the parliament in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.
Abadi is a moderate Shi'ite who took office as prime minister in 2014 with promises of defeating IS, resolving disputes between the minority Sunnis and Kurds, and reducing corruption.
Sadr says he supports Abadi’s plans for political reforms and has accused other Shi’ite leaders of trying to preserve a system of political patronage that contributes to corruption.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s most powerful Shi’ite militias -- the Saraya al-Khorasani Brigade and the Badr Organization -- have both been receiving funds, weapons, and training from Iran.
That puts them at odds with Sadr, who once was supported by Iran but recently has positioned himself as more of a nationalist leader in Iraq.
Khorasani fighters, Badr militia, and Sadr’s so-called Peace Brigades are all part of an umbrella group known as Hashid Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces. They have been fighting alongside the U.S.-backed Iraqi Army against IS militants.
But their unity appears to be fraying, raising concerns about the ability of Iraqi forces to fight against IS militants.
Since last week, politicians from the blocs of Badr and Sadr have accused each other of complicity in recent bombings claimed by IS militants.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa