Blasts kill 15 in Shiite areas of Baghdad

A series of bombings mainly targeting Shiite areas of Baghdad killed at least 15 people on Sunday, officials said, the latest to hit Iraq as it struggles with protests and a political crisis.

Three car bombs struck the sprawling Sadr City slum in the north of the city, while one car bombs also exploded in Ameen, Al-Husseiniyah and Kamaliyah in the east, and a roadside bomb blew up in Karrada in central Baghdad, security and medical officials said.

Another roadside bomb exploded in Saidiyah in the capital's south. At least 15 people were killed and more than 80 wounded in the attacks across the city, the officials said.

People in Sadr City were enraged by the bombings, and hospitals in the area were crowded with people searching for relatives, an AFP journalist reported.

"What did we do? We are always victims of the conflicts between politicians," one woman shouted.

Heavy security measures were put in place after the Sadr City attacks, with some areas closed off.

The carnage might have been even worse, as the AFP journalist saw Iraqi soldiers apparently defuse another car bomb in the area.

Security forces also searched cars at the main entrance to Sadr City and helicopters overflew the area, another AFP journalist reported.

Sunday's attacks bring the number of people killed in violence this month to at least 150, according to an AFP tally based on reports from security and medical officials nationwide.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the latest wave of attacks.

But Sunni militants linked to the Al-Qaeda franchise in Iraq often target the Shiite majority in a bid to erode confidence in the central government and push the country back towards the bloody sectarian conflict of 2006-2007.

The Baghdad bombings follow multiple attacks on Saturday that killed five people, including the head of Iraq's intelligence academy.

Two suicide bombers killed Brigadier General Aouni Ali and two of his guards, and more bombings resulted in the deaths of a judge and an army lieutenant.

Members of the security forces and judicial officials are also often targeted by militants in Iraq.

These latest incidents in a spike in violence come as Iraq grapples with nearly two months of anti-government protests centred on Sunni-majority areas in north and west Iraq, calling for the ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, and a festering political crisis in the capital.

The demonstrations were initially sparked in December by the arrest of several guards of Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi, a leading Sunni.

The longest-running protests have blocked off a key trade route linking Baghdad to both Jordan and Syria.

As the demonstrations have since expanded markedly, the government has sought to curtail them by saying it has released thousands of detainees and raised the salaries of Sunni militiamen battling Al-Qaeda extremists.

It has also restricted movements in major cities on Fridays, when the largest protests are staged.

Maliki, meanwhile, has been tussling with a political crisis that has pitted him against many of his government partners barely two months before provincial elections, the country's first since March 2010 parliamentary polls.