Toll from spate of Iraq attacks rises to 46 dead

Toll from spate of Iraq attacks rises to 46 dead
Shi'ite women mourn during the funeral of a victim, who was killed in bomb attacks outside a cafe in Baghdad's Sadriya district

BAGHDAD - A spate of Iraq attacks, including twin bombings at a market and the assassination of a former MP, killed at least 46 people, officials said Tuesday.

The shootings and bombings on Monday marked the latest in a sharp rise in violence that has seen more than 500 people killed already this month, fuelling fears Iraq is on the brink of plunging back into the brutal Sunni-Shiite sectarian war that plagued it years ago.

France, meanwhile, offered to help combat the bloodshed, which comes just months before landmark general elections, after Iraq appealed for international help in combatting militancy.

Monday's attacks struck in Baghdad and predominantly Sunni Arab areas north of the capital that have borne the brunt of the worsening unrest, with nearly 6,000 people killed so far this year.

The deadliest assault was on a market in the Sadriyah neighbourhood of central Baghdad, where an evening roadside bomb followed by a suicide attack killed at least 23 people as Iraqis gathered at restaurants and cafes and to shop.

The market had been closed off entirely to vehicle traffic after a massive car bomb in April 2007 killed 140 people, during the peak of Iraq's bloody sectarian conflict.

Elsewhere in the capital, a series of attacks killed eight people.

In the northern city of Mosul, nine were killed in violence, while attacks in Baquba and near Balad left five more dead.

In an attack south of the capital, meanwhile, a former lawmaker was gunned down.

Jamal Mohsen, a Sunni Arab former MP from the predominantly Shiite Muslim city of Nasiriyah, was shot dead inside his house on the outskirts of the city.

Diplomats, analysts and rights groups say the government is not doing enough to address the root causes of the unrest, particularly disquiet among Sunnis over alleged mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led authorities.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki nevertheless used a recent trip to Washington to push for greater intelligence sharing and the timely delivery of new weapons systems in a bid to combat militants.

French Ambassador to Iraq Denys Gauer on Monday offered weapons, training and intelligence cooperation.

Officials have also voiced concern over a resurgent Al-Qaeda emboldened by the civil war in neighbouring Syria, which has provided jihadist fighters in Iraq with rear bases to plan operations.

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