At least 17 people were killed and more than 50 wounded, among them an Iraqi member of parliament, on Monday in a wave of bloody attacks mainly in and around Baghdad, security officials and an MP said.
In the deadliest attack, a suicide car bomber detonated an explosives-packed vehicle near the main entrance of Hout prison in Taji north of Baghdad at about 8:00 am (0500 GMT), as family members gathered to visit inmates.
An interior ministry official said 13 people were killed and 28 wounded by the blast, while a defence ministry official put the toll at 12 dead and 26 wounded.
Justice ministry spokesman Haidar al-Saadi said six of the dead in Taji were police working under the ministry who were on their way to work at the prison.
The bomber “blew himself up on the highway near the prison, where family members of prisoners were gathering” before a visit, Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qassim Atta said.
Later, an Iraqi member of parliament was wounded and two other people killed in an explosion, the cause of which was disputed, near parliament.
The blast was alternatively said to have been from a mortar shell, a suicide bomber, and a magnetic “sticky bomb.”
“A mortar round landed near parliament’s car park. One colleague, (MP) Muayid al-Tayyeb, was wounded,” MP Ali al-Shila told AFP.
The interior ministry official said that two people were killed and seven wounded by a mortar round, while the defence ministry official said three people were killed and four wounded by an explosion in a parliament parking area, but that “it is not clear if it was a car bomb or a mortar shell.”
It was not clear if the MP was included in the number of wounded given by the security officials. Differing tolls are common in the confusion following attacks in Iraq.
“What happened today was a suicide operation against members of parliament while they were leaving parliament,” a high-ranking security official said on condition of anonymity.
That account was also backed by Aidan Helmi, media adviser to Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, who said that the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber and termed it a botched “assassination attempt” on Nujaifi.
Helmi said a man driving a black vehicle of the type that make up Nujaifi’s convoy tried to enter the VIP gate of parliament, backed up when asked for a badge, hit another car, exited his vehicle, argued with the other driver, and blew himself up.
The US military, when asked about the parliament blast, said that “there was an MAIED (magnetically attached improvised explosive device) near the northeast corner of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It has not been characterised as a suicide attack.”
The interior ministry official also said that two people were killed and four wounded by a magnetic “sticky bomb” on a vehicle in the Mansur area in western Baghdad.
And one person was killed and 18 others wounded by three roadside bombs in the disputed north Iraq city of Kirkuk, Major General Turhan Abdul Rahman, the deputy director general of Kirkuk police, said.
Monday’s deaths raise the toll from a week of surging violence across Iraq to at least 61.
On Sunday, bomb and gun attacks killed four people and wounded nine, while the previous day 16 people were killed and 20 wounded in bombings and shootings in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) west of the capital.
Three bombs exploded in the southern port city of Basra last Thursday, killing 19 people, including high-ranking army and police officers, and wounding at least 65.
And five people were killed in attacks in the disputed northern Iraq city of Kirkuk on November 22.
Violence has declined nationwide since its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. A total of 258 people were killed in October, according to official figures.
General Lloyd Austin, the top US commander in Iraq, has warned of “turbulence” on the security front as American forces depart and militant groups seek to take advantage of the vacuum.
He specifically pointed to Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Iranian-backed militias.
American troops are set to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, bringing to a close an almost nine-year war that has left thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.