Page last updated at 19:33 GMT, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 20:33 UK

Car bomb kills dozens in Baghdad

Iraq map

At least 34 people have been killed by a large car bomb in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, police say.

Another 72 people were injured by the explosion from a parked car in the north-west of the city.

The attack happened near a popular restaurant in Shula, a poor, crowded mainly Shia neighbourhood.

In the last few days several similar attacks have targeted crowded tea shops across the capital, but this is the largest attack this month.

All victims were civilians and the toll is expected to rise, police said.

"The explosion happened around a number of restaurants and retail shops. The car bomb was parked," an official at the defence ministry told news agency AFP.

"It occurred when the streets were filled with people. There were a large number of people shopping. Many people were sitting in the restaurants. That is why there are so many victims."

Upsurge in violence

The most recent large attack in Baghdad happened on 29 April when three bombs exploded in Sadr City.

Overall, April was the bloodiest month in Iraq this year, with a 40% rise in the number of people killed over March - though it had been a relatively quiet May until now.

Both the Iraqi government and the US say recent attacks were isolated incidents that do not undermine the security gains. They say the attacks are not as sophisticated as they once were.

But the BBC's Natalia Antelava in Baghdad says many people in the city feel the situation is deteriorating and could get worse once US troops withdraw from Iraqi cities at the end of June.

Many also point out that the latest attacks have tended to target Shia areas, raising fears that sectarian violence could once more be on the rise.

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