IRAQ BAGHDAD CAR BOMB attack.jpg
Photograph: EPA/AHMED ALI

A series of bomb attacks mainly targeting Shiite areas of Baghdad claimed 68 people on Tuesday, with supporters of the Islamic State extremist group claiming responsibility for the largest of the blasts.

It was the sixth day of deadly attacks in and around the Iraqi capital in a week. Responsibility for most has been claimed by the Sunni extremist Islamic State group.

The deadliest attack hit the northern Shiite district of al-Shaab, where a bomb blast and suicide explosion killed 44 civilians, according to witnesses and security and medical officials.

An initial bomb blast was followed by a female suicide bomber who blew herself up in a marketplace, they said.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, in his role as supreme commander of the armed forces, ordered the head of security for al-Shaab be arrested after the attack.

Islamic State supporters on social media circulated a claim of responsibility saying a male suicide bomber had carried out the attack. The bomber had targeted members of Shiite paramilitary forces, the statement claimed.

Dpa could not independently authenticate the claim, but it was similar to previous such claims issued by the extremist group.

Islamic State has frequently targeted crowded markets and restaurants in mainly Shiite areas, as well as attacking Shiite religious ceremonies and security forces.

The Iraqi government pointed to recent advances by security forces as motivating the attack, noting that troops had on Monday started an operation to recapture the town of al-Rutba near the Jordanian borders.

A government statement said that "the enemy steps up its crimes against innocent citizens every time it suffers defeats on the front against our heroic fighters."

Later on Tuesday, a car bomb hit a marketplace in the Shiite Sadr City district in the east of the city, killing 18 people and injuring 57, according to police and witnesses.

Militiamen loyal to firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr sealed off the district after the attack and mounted a guard for government buildings, locals said.

Police said they also defused another car bomb in the area, where a marketplace bombing on Wednesday killed more than 60 people.

In the city's south-eastern al-Amin district, three people were killed and 15 injured in a car bomb attack.

Another six people were killed in two separate bomb attacks in the religiously mixed Yusufiyah and al-Rashid areas south of the city, police said.

More than 100 people have been killed in a wave of bomb and gun attacks in and around Baghdad over the past six days.

The attacks come as Iraqi security forces continue to make slow progress against Islamic State-held territory north and west of Baghdad.

Al-Abadi on Saturday charged that a political crisis in the capital was working to the extremist group's advantage.

The premier has been trying for months to form a more technocratic government in an effort to combat corruption and bad administration. But rival political parties, which have carved out fiefdoms in various ministries, have been blocking his moves.

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