A bombing near a playground and other insurgent attacks killed 18 people including several children in Iraq today, challenging government efforts to promote a sense of stability by preventing attacks during a major Muslim holiday.
The strikes underscored the difficulties facing Iraq's leadership as it struggles to keep its citizens safe. Authorities have said they intended to increase security to thwart attackers who might use the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday to strike when people are off work and families gather in public places.
The deadlier of two blasts in Baghdad struck near a playground and a small market in the neighbourhood of Bawiya in eastern Baghdad. Police officials said eight people were killed, including four children. Another 24 people, including children, were wounded, they said.
"Nobody expected this explosion because our neighbourhood has been living in peace, away from the violence hitting the rest of the capital," said Bassem Mohammed, a 35-year-old father of three in the neighbourhood who was startled by the blast.
"We feel sad for the children who thought that they would spend a happy time during Eid, but instead ended up getting killed or hurt."
Authorities have said they planned to increase the number of checkpoints, shut some roads and deploy extra personnel during the holiday period.
Elsewhere, a bomb attached to a bus carrying Iranian Shiite pilgrims killed five people and wounded nine, according to police. The so-called sticky bomb, hidden on the underside of the bus, detonated as the pilgrims were heading to a Shiite shrine in Baghdad to mark Eid.
In the northern city of Mosul, gunmen broke into the houses of two Shabak families, killing a boy and his parents in one and a mother and daughter in the other, according to police. A bomb exploded near the house of another Shabak family, wounding six family members.
Shabaks are ethnically Turkomen and Shiite by religion. Most Shabaks were driven out of Mosul by Sunni militants during the sectarian fighting a few years ago.
Medics in nearby hospitals confirmed the casualties.
Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, is a major Muslim holiday that commemorates what Muslims believe was the Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail, the Biblical Ishmael, as a test of his faith from God. Christians and Jews believe another of Abraham's sons, Isaac, was the one almost sacrificed.
Eid al-Adha, which began Friday, marks the end of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims worldwide typically slaughter lambs and other animals to commemorate the holiday, and share some meat with the poor.
Violence has ebbed across Iraq, but insurgents frequently attack security forces and civilians in an attempt to undermine the country's Shiite-led government.
Holidays are a particular time of concern for security forces. A wave of attacks shortly before another Muslim holiday in August, Eid al-Fitr, killed more than 90 people in one of the deadliest days in Iraq this year.