Two roadside bombs killed at least eight people and wounded 38 in a Baghdad market Saturday, police and hospital sources said, breaking weeks of relative calm.
The blasts hit a market near a Shi’a shrine in the Kadhimiya neighborhood of the Iraqi capital ahead of next week's Muslim Eid al-Adha festival, when security officials believe al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliates and other Sunni extremists may try a major attack.
Police said the bombs blew up inside a busy public market and most of the victims were women and children, Reuters reports.
"We heard a loud explosion so we ran to see what happened ... there was big mess near the explosion scene, clothes, toes, food and bodies were everywhere," a policeman at the scene told Reuters. "Many wounded people were shouting and looking for their relatives."
"It was a busy time for shopping, so there were a lot of people around," Ahmed Naseer, owner of a nearby stationery shop, told the Associated Press. "When I came out, I saw burning carts and merchant stalls, and children crying and women screaming out of fear. The whole place was full of panic."
Meanwhile, in separate incidents, gunmen killed two Baghdad police officers and another officer was fatally shot outside his house, officials told CNN.
No one has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s violence.
The monthly death toll from militant attacks across Iraq doubled in September to 365, the highest figure for more than two years, according to government figures.
The insurgents have launched one major assault a month since U.S. troops withdrew in December.
Sunni-Shi’a tensions in the region have been heightened by the civil war in neighboring Syria, and have been spilling over into Lebanon, which has been thrown into crisis by a bombing in Beirut Friday.