Ahead of curfew ending, bombs kill 37 in Iraq's capital
BAGHDAD (AP) Ahead of Baghdad ending a decade-old nightly curfew, bombs exploded across the Iraqi capital Saturday, killing at least 37 people in a stark warning of the dangers still ahead in this country torn by the Islamic State group.
The deadliest bombing happened in the capital's New Baghdad neighborhood, where a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a street filled with hardware stores and a restaurant, killing 22 people and wounding at least 45, police said.
"The restaurant was full of young people, children and women when the suicide bomber blew himself up," witness Mohamed Saeed said. "Many got killed."
After the blast, bloody water mixed with olives and other debris from the restaurant as authorities tried to clean.
A second attack happened in central Baghdad's popular Shorja market, where two bombs some 25 meters (yards) apart exploded, killing at least 11 people and wounding 26, police said. Another bombing at the Abu Cheer outdoor market in southwestern Baghdad killed at least four people and wounded 15, police said.
Hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to brief journalists.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the Islamic State group has launched attacks on Baghdad in the past. The extremist group now holds a third of both Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate.
The attacks came as Iraq prepared to lift its nightly midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew on Sunday. The curfew largely has been in place since 2004, in response to the growing sectarian violence that engulfed Iraq after the the U.S.-led invasion a year earlier.
There was no immediate comment Saturday from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who announced the end of the curfew on Thursday by decree. He also ordered that streets, long blocked off for security reasons, reopen for traffic and pedestrians.
Iraqi officials repeatedly have assured that the capital is secure, despite Sunni militant groups occasionally attacking Baghdad's Shiite-majority neighborhoods.
Associated Press writer Murtada Faraj contributed to this report.