28 killed in Iraq bomb attacks
A series of bombings has killed 28 people in central Iraq as a government official claimed that al Qaida-linked fighters have dug into a city they seized last month and possess enough heavy weapons to storm into Baghdad.
The bombings, mainly targeting marketplaces and court buildings in the capital, came as the army presses an all-out offensive to retake the area, but has come up against heavy resistance.
Since late December, members of Iraq's al Qaida branch - known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - have taken over parts of Ramadi, the capital of the largely Sunni western province of Anbar. They also control the centre of the nearby city of Fallujah, along with other non-al Qaida groups that also oppose the Shiite-led government.
Inside Ramadi, police said a roadside bomb hit a police convoy, killing two policemen and a local television cameraman who had been accompanying the police during the clashes.
The deadliest of the blasts hit an outdoor market south of the capital, killing seven people and wounding 13, police said. A bomb in a nearby commercial street killed two more, while another three died and seven were wounded in a south-eastern district. Another bomb in a northern suburb killed three and wounded six.
Two separate car bombs near court buildings also killed seven and wounded 22, said police. Later, a car bomb went off in a commercial street in western Baghdad, killing three people and wounding nine.
Hospital officials confirmed the death toll for all attacks.
"The weapons that were brought inside Fallujah are huge and advanced and frankly enough to occupy Baghdad," deputy interior minister Adnan al-Asadi said in a speech, adding that Iraqi forces are still fighting "fierce battles" there and in Ramadi.
He did not elaborate on the type or quantity of weapons.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the latest attacks. Al Qaida's Iraq branch, which has been gaining strength in recent months, frequently attack soft targets such as cafes and markets in an effort to undermine the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
The latest attacks bring the death toll for this month to at least 387, according to an Associated Press count.