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New wave of bombings by militants in western Iraq kills 20 in Baghdad

BAGHDAD--A new wave of bombings hit Iraq's capital, Baghdad, killing at least 20 people Sunday, officials said, the latest assault by militants who have been fighting Iraqi security forces and allied tribes in country's west.

The deadliest attack took place in Baghdad's Shiite northern Shaab neighborhood, when two parked car bombs exploded simultaneously near a restaurant and a tea house. Officials say those blasts killed 10 people and wounded 26.

Authorities said that a parked car bomb ripped through in capital's Shiite eastern district of Sadr City, killing five and wounding 10. Another bombing killed three civilians and wounded six in a commercial area in the central Bab al-Muadham neighborhood, officials said. Two other bombings killed two civilians and wounded 13, police said.

Medical officials confirmed the causality figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

The attacks come as Iraqi security forces are besieging two key cities country's western Anbar province after they were taken over by militants from al-Qaida's local branch, known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL). Clashes have been taking place since Monday in Anbar's provincial capital, Ramadi, and nearby Fallujah between al-Qaida militants and pro-government Sunni tribesmen. The Baghdad bombings could be seen as an attempt by militants to distract security forces.

Earlier on Sunday, a senior Iraqi military commander said that it will take a few days to fully dislodge al-Qaida-linked fighters from two key western cities.

Lt. Gen. Rasheed Fleih, who leads the Anbar Military Command, told the state television Sunday that “two to three days” are needed to push the militants out of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi. Fleih added that pro-government Sunni tribes are leading the operations while the army only is offering aerial cover and logistics on the ground. He didn't elaborate on the operations.

“The quiet and safe life that is sought by the Anbaris will not be completely restored before few hours or two to three days, God willing,” Fleih said.

Residents say it has been quiet since Saturday night in Fallujah, where militants still control the center of the city. Sporadic clashes took place Sunday in and around Ramadi. The residents spoke on condition of anonymity for their safety.

Ramadi was a stronghold of Sunni insurgents during the U.S.-led war. Al-Qaida militants largely took both cities over last week and have been fending off incursions by government forces there since.

ISIL is also one of the strongest rebel units in Syria, where it has imposed a strict version of Islamic law in territories it holds and kidnapped and killed anyone it deems critical of its rule. Also on Saturday, it claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood in Lebanon.

Tensions in Anbar have run high since Dec. 28, 2013, when Iraqi security forces arrested a Sunni lawmaker sought for terrorism charges. Two days later, the government dismantled a months-old, anti-government Sunni protest camp, sparking clashes with militants.

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