At least 88 die in multiple bombings in Shiite areas of Baghdad
BAGHDAD, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Bombs laid waste to crowded markets in central Baghdad on Monday killing 88 people as Iraqis marked the first anniversary of a Shi'ite shrine bombing that pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
The blasts took place about the time Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in remarks commemorating the bombing of the Samarra mosque, warned that Iraq had no future unless a U.S.- backed offensive against militants in Baghdad succeeded.
In the deadliest attack, simultaneous blasts pulverised Shorja market, Baghdad's oldest, killing 79 people, destroying vendor stalls and setting ablaze an eight-storey warehouse. Police said 165 people were wounded.
The Shorja market, the main supplier for countless small shops in Baghdad and central Iraq, has been bombed frequently.
A separate roadside bomb at the Bab al-Sharji market, also in central Baghdad, killed nine people and wounded 21.
The timing of the noon bombings, on the anniversary by the Islamic calendar of the destruction of the Golden Dome Mosque, appeared aimed at fanning sectarian strife as U.S. and Iraq forces step up a security plan in the capital, seen as a last chance to avert all-out war between majority Sh'ites and Sunnis.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said three car bombs exploded in quick succession at Shorja.
However, Major-General Abdul Rasool al-Zaidi from the Civil Defence Authority told state television the carnage was caused by five simultaneous roadside bombs around the warehouse.
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Iraq commemorates bombing of the 'Mosque of the Golden Dome' in Samarra