Iraqis inspect the aftermath of a car bomb attack, in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, July. 29, 2013. A wave of over a dozen car bombings hit central and southern Iraq during morning rush hour on Monday, officials said, killing scores in the latest coordinated attack by insurgents determined to undermine the government. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
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Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) — The Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda claimed responsibility Friday for bombings earlier this week that killed at least 82 people, mostly in Shiite areas of the capital, calling them retaliation for the execution of Sunni prisoners by the Shiite-led government.

Wednesday’s attacks involved car bombs and other explosives that mainly targeted parking lots, outdoor markets and restaurants in Shiite districts in Baghdad during the morning rush hour. Some Sunni areas were also hit later in the day.

A statement posted on a militant website by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, took responsibility for the deadly attacks. The group claimed the attacks were a response to the Aug. 19 execution of 17 Sunni prisoners, all but one of them convicted on terrorism-related charges.

The authenticity of the statement could not be independently confirmed. It was posted on a website commonly used by jihadists and its style was consistent with earlier al-Qaeda statements.

It said tight security measures imposed by Iraqi forces failed to stop the attacks, and the group vowed to carry out more attacks against government targets.

“We will avenge the blood of our brothers,” the group said.

The bombings were the latest in a wave of bloodshed that has swept Iraq since April, killing more than 4,000 people and worsening already strained ties between Iraq’s Sunni minority and the Shiite-led government. More than 570 people have been killed so far in August.

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Iraq Bombings, House Raid Kill at Least 80 People

Car bomb blasts and other explosions tore through mainly Shiite districts around Baghdad during morning rush hour Wednesday in a day of violence that killed at least 80, intensifying worries about Iraq’s ability to tame the spiraling mayhem gripping the country.

It was the latest set of large-scale sectarian attacks to hit Iraq, even as the government went on “high alert” in case a possible Western strike in neighboring Syria increases Iraq’s turmoil.

A relentless wave of killing has left thousands dead since April in the country’s worst spate of bloodshed since 2008. The surge in violence raises fears that Iraq is hurtling back toward the widespread sectarian killing that peaked in 2006 and 2007, when the country was teetering on the edge of civil war.

Most of Wednesday’s attacks happened in within minutes of each other as people headed to work or were out shopping early in the day. Insurgents unleashed explosives-laden cars, suicide bombers and other bombs that targeted parking lots, outdoor markets and restaurants in predominantly Shiite areas in and around Baghdad, officials said. A military convoy was hit south of the capital.

Security forces sealed off the blast scenes as ambulances raced to pick up the wounded. The twisted wreckage of cars littered the pavement while cleaners and shop owners brushed away debris. At one restaurant, the floor was stained with blood and dishes were scattered on plastic tables.

“What sin have those innocent people committed?” asked Ahmed Jassim, who witnessed one of the explosions in Baghdad’s Hurriyah neighborhood. “We hold the government responsible.”

The northern neighborhood of Kazimiyah, home to a prominent Shiite shrine, was among the worst hit. Two bombs went off in a parking lot, followed by a suicide car bomber who struck onlookers who had gathered at the scene. Police said the attack killed 10 people and wounded 27.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida, which operates in Iraq under the name the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The group frequently targets Shiites, which it considers heretics, and carries out coordinated bombings in an attempt to incite sectarian strife.

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