— A series of car bombs Monday struck parts of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Growing violence in Iraq killed 1,000 people and wounded 1,500 last month.
Ambulances take casualties to hospitals, after a car bomb exploded in the Horriya district, north of Baghdad. Other bombings were reported in the district of Baladiyat and the suburb of Mahmoudiya. Iraqi satellite channels say more than a dozen people were killed in the blasts.
The bombings coincided with military operations by the Iraqi Army in the restive, mostly Sunni Anbar province. Heavy fighting has been raging between the army and Islamic militants in and around the towns of Fallujah and Ramadi for more than a month.
Witnesses say communications and electricity have been cut to Fallujah, most of which is now controlled by militants from the al Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group. An army statement said 57 militants were killed Sunday and Monday in Ramadi.
Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has threatened to attack Fallujah, and many residents have fled. Those remaining report shortages of food and medicine.
Sunni religious leaders in nearby Kirkuk are urging the Iraqi government not to attack Fallujah and allow local militiamen and police to reassert control.
They are calling for the government to immediately stop shelling residential and civilian areas and to withdraw the Iraqi Army from Anbar Province. They are also also urging Iraqi groups in other parts of the country to bring pressure on the government to solve the conflict peacefully.
Local residents gather at the site of a car bomb explosion in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad, Feb. 3, 2014.
Civilians inspect their damaged house after a car bombing in the Hurriyah neighborhood of northern Baghdad, Feb. 3, 2014.
Men inspect their home, which was damaged after a car bomb attack in Baghdad, Feb. 3, 2014.
People gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad, Feb. 3, 2014.
Provincial security committee head Falah al Kafaji says Iraqi security forces also attacked ISIL's base of operations in northern Babil Province, looking for the group's leader.
He says Iraqi intelligence indicates Abou Bakr al Baghdadi is in the region. He says security forces combed the area, killing three terrorists after storming their headquarters. He says others are being pursued.
Analyst James Denselow of the London-based Foreign Policy Center says car-bombs have become common in Iraq, and what is “clearly an unacceptable situation” in any other country now draws attention only when “body counts are high.”
Denselow says the Sunni-Shi'ite aspect of the conflict has a more regional and political dimension than a theological one.
"The Sunni-Shia dynamic just disguises what essentially is a geo-political power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia," he said. "That is (what) we see in places that are split like Lebanon and Iraq ... where this proxy struggle is being fought. ...I do not think there is a huge amount of theology to this. I think it is more raw power politics at play.”
Denselow argues Prime Minister Maliki is attaching his political fate to the military operations in Anbar Province, much as he did during an operation to capture the southern port city of Basrah in 2008 from Shi'ite militiamen. Iraqi parliamentary elections are due to be held in April.