At least 31 dead after two car bombs explode in Iraqi city of Samawah
Published 01/05/2016 | 18:50
Two car bombs in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah have killed 31 people and wounded dozens more.
The bombings are the latest in a series of large attacks claimed by the Islamic State group as the country grapples with a worsening political crisis.
The attacks on Sunday came the day after thousands of anti-government protesters poured into Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone.
They stormed parliament, the culmination of months of protests by followers of an influential Shiite cleric demanding wide-ranging political reforms.
Two parked cars filled with explosives were detonated within minutes of each other around midday in Samawah, the first near government offices and the second at an open-air bus station less than a mile away.
At least 52 people were wounded in both explosions, and the death toll was expected to rise.
IS claimed the bombings in an online statement, saying they were carried out by suicide attackers targeting police.
The Shiite-dominated city lies some 230 miles south of the capital, Baghdad. The extremists have repeatedly targeted Iraq's Shiite majority - whom they view as apostates - as well as the Shiite-dominated security forces.
Anti-government protesters temporarily ended their mass demonstration in Baghdad's Green Zone on Sunday and began an orderly withdrawal a day after tearing down walls around the government district and invading parliament.
Loudspeakers manned by followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has led the protest movement, announced the disbanding of the protests.
They had marked the culmination of months of sit-ins and demonstrations demanding the overhaul of a political system widely seen as corrupt and ineffectual.
"We decided to end it now because of the anniversary of Imam (Moussa) al-Kadhim," said Mr Sadiq al-Hashemi, a representative of Mr al-Sadr's office in Baghdad who was present at the protests.
Mr Al-Hashemi said Mr al-Sadr made the decision in order to allow Iraqi security forces to protect the thousands of pilgrims who are expected to walk from across Iraq to the shrine of the eighth-century Imam in Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the United Nations said at least 741 Iraqis were killed in April due to ongoing violence, a sharp decline from the previous month.
In its monthly report, the UN mission to Iraq put the number of civilians killed at 410, while the rest were members of the security forces. A total of 1,374 Iraqis were wounded that month, it added.
In March, at least 1,119 people were killed and 1,561 wounded.
The capital, Baghdad, remains the worst-hit area, with 232 civilians killed and 642 wounded in April, followed by the northern province of Ninevah, which is almost entirely controlled by the Islamic State group, with 72 killed and 30 wounded.
"It pains us to see the continuing blood-letting and loss of life, particularly among civilians who are paying a high price as a result of bombings and the armed clashes," UN envoy Jan Kubis said.