(VOA) CAIRO, EGYPT — More than a dozen car bombs exploded in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, and other cities on Monday, killing over 50 people and wounding more than 200 others. The bombers appeared to have targeted mostly Shi'ite areas. This year has been one of the deadliest since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Ambulances ferried victims of a bomb blast in Baghdad's mostly Shi'ite district of Sadr City. Witnesses say a blast inside a minivan transporting Shi'ite workers killed more than half a dozen people.
A bystander gave his version of what happened. He said the force of the blast inside the vehicle killed and wounded people in the area and damaged surrounding shops.
Car-bomb blasts also rocked at least six other Baghdad neighborhoods. In addition, bloody explosions struck the towns of Mahmoudiya, Kut, Basra and Samawa.
A witness in Samawa said fire and rescue workers were slow to arrive at the scene of the blast. He said it took the fire department four hours to respond after the car bomb exploded, frightening people and setting fire to his and other cars.
Parliament Speaker Osama Nujeif, a Sunni, condemned the explosions, as did many other Sunni and Shi'ite political leaders. Baghdad's Alsharqiya TV reported that Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki dismissed his military intelligence chief after the blasts.
Security reportedly was strengthened in several Shi'ite regions of the country in the lead-up to a major Shi'ite festival. The deputy head of the Najaf Provincial Council, Louai Yassiri, explained what is being done. He said his council is trying to revamp its security practices, bringing government officials out of their offices and into the street to coordinate efforts and better protect the people.
James Denselow of the London-based Foreign Policy Centre said that security inside Iraq is deteriorating because of both local and regional issues.
"This is a reflection of an endemic state of instability, and a security forces that are unable to protect large targets such as market places and places of worship," said Denselow. "Meanwhile, instability in Syria has given second wind to Sunni extremist groups that operate under a various range of franchises across a poorly demarcated and even less defended border.”
Denselow also points out that political gridlock in Iraq has added to the chaos, since the country has not had an interior minister in more than a year. Iraqi analysts say that attacks on two major prisons last week let loose dozens of al-Qaida militants, further adding to security worries.