, BAGHDAD, Nov 3 – Eleven car bombs rocked Baghdad, killing at least 63 people amid concern that Sunni militants are taking advantage of a power vacuum seven months after an inconclusive election.
Another 285 people were wounded in the bombings that were targeted at Shiite neighbourhoods in the Iraqi capital, some exploding near cafes or restaurants.
The attacks came just two days after Al-Qaeda gunmen stormed a church in the heart of the city and took dozens of worshippers hostage, with 46 of them killed in a drama that ended with a raid by Iraqi special forces.
"Sixty-three people were killed and 285 wounded in 11 car bombings. All of the explosions happened at the same time," an interior ministry official said.
The biggest explosions were in the northern Kadhimiyah and eastern Husseiniyah districts.
The interior ministry imposed an immediate curfew on the targeted areas of east Baghdad, over and above the nightly ban on movement in force across the capital from midnight to 5:00 am.
Washington and London condemned the new bloodshed and attempts to stoke sectarian conflict.
"The United States strongly condemns the vicious violence witnessed today," National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement.
"We have confidence that the people of Iraq will remain steadfast in their rejection of efforts by extremists to spark sectarian tension," Hammer added.
"These attacks will not stop Iraq\’s progress. The United States stands with the people of Iraq and remains committed to our strong and long-term partnership," he said.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement: "Those responsible for these barbaric bombings do not care for the future of Iraq and its people. They are intent only on provoking tension and conflict."
Iraq has been without a government since an inconclusive March 7 general election in which the Shiite-led State of Law bloc of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki finished a narrow second behind Iyad Allawi\’s mainly Sunni-backed Iraqiya group.
Both have been locked in back-room negotiations with different political blocs, but neither has been able to muster the majority needed to form a government.
The power vacuum has contributed to an increasing sense of insecurity, with militants seen as seeking to take advantage.
Tuesday\’s bombings and the attacks on Christians come as Iraq is trying to get back on its feet after the US-led invasion of 2003 and the sectarian bloodletting that followed between the Shiite majority and the ousted Sunni Arab elite.
The bombings are a fresh blow to the country\’s efforts to attract foreign investment and technology to rebuild the war-wrecked country.
Violence in Iraq has fallen dramatically since sectarian bloodshed peaked in 2006 to 2007 but attacks are still common in Baghdad and the main northern city of Mosul.
October saw the least violence since November 2009, figures released by government ministries this week showed.
A total of 194 Iraqis were killed last month, including 53 during the hostage drama on Sunday. Seven of the dead were security force personnel.