20 killed in Baghdad blasts

A series of car bombs minutes apart targeting markets across Baghdad killed 20 people Tuesday, officials said, the latest in a nationwide surge in attacks sparking fears of a return to all-out conflict.

The blasts struck commercial areas in Dura, Shaab, Shuala and Kamiliyah neighbourhoods at around 6:00 pm (1500 GMT), leaving a further 60 people wounded, security and medical officials said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni militants linked to Al-Qaeda frequently look to set off mass-casualty attacks with coordinated bombings in a bid to raise tensions and undermine confidence in the government and security forces.

The violence comes a day after a series of attacks north of the capital left 45 people dead.

The UN has said more than 2,500 people were killed in a surge of violence from April through June.

The violence, coupled with a protracted political deadlock and months of protests in Sunni Arab parts of Iraq, has sparked concerns of a return to the brutal sectarian bloodshed that blighted Iraq in 2006 and 2007.