Two separate car bomb explosions targeted commuters in Baghdad on Sunday morning, killing at least 13 civilians, officials said, amid an ongoing standoff between Iraqi forces and al-Qaeda-linked militants west of the Iraqi capital.
The blasts came a day after a senior American official wrapped up a three-day visit to Iraq to meet with top political leaders to discuss the security crisis in the vast Sunni-dominated western province of Anbar.
The deadliest blast occurred at a crowded bus station in central Baghdad when an explosives-laden car exploded outside the station in the Allawi area, killing at least nine people and wounding 16, a police officer said.
Thousands of people use the bus station every day or pass through the area. Last Thursday, a suicide bomber blew himself up among a group of security force recruits nearby, killing nearly two dozen.
Another parked car bomb targeted a gathering of buses and taxis in Baghdad’s northern Hurriyah neighbourhood, killing four civilians and wounding 12 others, the same police officer said.
Two medical officials confirmed the causality figures, which included 16 wounded. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to release information.
The attacks come as Iraqi security forces and allied Sunni tribal militias have been battling al-Qaeda-linked militants in Anbar to recapture strategic territory overrun by militants from the local al-Qaeda franchise, known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
Iraqi forces have yet to militarily try to reassert control over Fallujah, which remains in the hands of the militants and tribal gunmen opposed to the central government.
Militants and tribal fighters also control part of the provincial capital, Ramadi. Sporadic clashes there and in surrounding areas continue to take place.
Thousands of families have left the area, fearing a government offensive. Clashes between militants and security forces have left at least 60 people dead since violence erupted after the December 28 arrest of a Sunni lawmaker sought on terrorism charges and the dismantling of an anti-government Sunni protest camp in Ramadi.
The extremist militants, emboldened by fellow fighters’ gains in the civil war in neighbouring Syria, have tried to position themselves as the champions of Iraqi Sunnis angry at the Shiite-led government over what they see as efforts to marginalise them.