BAGHDAD (AP) — Bombings that hit markets and other insurgent strikes primarily targeting Iraq's Shiite community killed 31 people on Saturday, challenging government efforts to promote a sense of stability by preventing attacks during a major Muslim holiday.
The bloodshed underscored the difficulties facing Iraq's leadership as it struggles to keep its citizens safe. Authorities had increased security in hopes of preventing attacks during the four-day Eid al-Adha celebrations, when people are off work and families gather in public places.
The deadliest blast happened on the outskirts of Baghdad and struck near playground equipment that had been set up for the holiday in a market in the eastern neighborhood of Bawiya. Police officials said eight people were killed, including four children. Another 24 people, including children, were wounded, they added.
"Nobody expected this explosion because our neighborhood 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 neighborhood 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."
Elsewhere, a bomb attached to a bus carrying Iranian Shiite pilgrims killed five people and wounded nine, according to police. The bomb, hidden on the underside of the bus, detonated as the pilgrims were heading to a Shiite shrine in Baghdad to mark the holiday.
Authorities have said they planned to increase the number of checkpoints, shut some roads and deploy extra personnel during the holiday period.
They are also relying more on undercover intelligence agents, said Lt. Col. Saad Maan Ibrahim, a spokesman for the interior ministry. He emphasized that both bombings took place on the edge of the capital rather than in densely populated areas.
"The terrorists apparently weren't able to get to the heart of the city. So they chose to attack soft targets on the outskirts," he said.
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.
In Tuz Khormato, about 210 kilometers (130 miles) north of Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near in a neighborhood with a Turkomen Shiite majority. Mayor Shalal Abdoul said 11 people were wounded, including three children.
On Saturday night, police said a car bomb explosion near a market in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr city killed seven people and wounded 15 others. Half an hour later, a second car bomb went off in one of Sadr city's bus stations, killing six people.
Medics in nearby hospitals confirmed the casualties. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
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.
The holiday, which began Friday, marks the end of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslims worldwide typically slaughter lambs and other animals to commemorate the holiday, sharing some of the 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.
Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed reporting.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
A 10-year-old male lion on loan from the San Diego Zoo was killed at the Indianapolis Zoo by a female lion, zoo officials announced Friday.
A 65-year-old woman was seriously injured Friday when she fell while riding an electric scooter with family members in the Marina area of San Diego.
A light plane occupied by a flight instructor and a student pilot made a safe emergency landing Friday amid late-morning traffic on Interstate 8 in El Cajon.
Outdoor clothing giant Patagonia jumped into two competitive Senate races Friday, endorsing Democrats Jon Tester of Montana and Jacky Rosen of Nevada in what the company called its first foray into elective politics.
Declaring this midterm election year an "inflection point" in American history, Kamala Harris came Friday to South Carolina to tell Democrats that the way out of Donald Trump's America is through the ballot box.
California moved a step closer Friday to allowing marijuana deliveries in communities that have banned retail sales of the drug as regulators rebuffed cities and police chiefs who are opposed to the rule.
The numbers in Friday night's draw of the multi-state Mega Millions lottery are 15, 23, 53, 65, 70 and the Mega number is 7.
The ninth annual San Diego Green Homes Tour is taking place on Sunday, and it is your chance to visit 12 of the county's most eco-friendly homes.