At least 56 Iraqis died Thursday in violence, including a car bombing that killed 25 people in the third major attack on a police lockup in three days.
A homicide car bomber detonated his explosives at the entrance to the Interior Ministry Major Crimes unit in Baghdad's central Karradah district, killing 10 civilians and 15 policemen employed there, authorities said.
The Interior Ministry is a predominantly Shiite organization and heavily infiltrated by members of various Shiite militias. The unit targeted Thursday investigates large-scale crimes and has about 20 suspected insurgents in custody, police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammadawi said.
He ruled out that the assault was aimed at releasing the prisoners — the goal of previous days' attacks on other police facilities.
Insurgents engineered a successful jailbreak that released more than 30 prisoners north of Baghdad on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the militants laid siege to a prison south of the capital, but U.S. troops and a special Iraqi unit thwarted the pre-dawn attack, capturing 50 of the gunmen, police said.
In yet another attempt to free prisoners, gunmen on Thursday attacked Iraqi soldiers escorting detainees to a courthouse in northern Baghdad, and one of the captives was killed in the crossfire before authorities arrested eight of the militants, police said.
In the assault on the crime unit, more than 35 people, mainly employees at the crimes unit, were wounded, police said.
A second car bomb hit a market area outside a Shiite Muslim mosque in the mixed Shiite-Sunni neighborhood of Shurta in southwest Baghdad. At least six people were killed and more than 20 wounded, many of them children, police said.
Roadside bombs targeting police patrols killed four others — two policemen and two bystanders — in Baghdad and at least one policeman in Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad. Dozens were wounded, police said.
Another two policemen were killed and two were wounded when gunmen ambushed a convoy in north Baghdad, an attack that police said was an aborted attempt to free detainees being transferred north to Mosul.
Also in Baghdad, two police were killed in gunbattles with insurgents. Two civilians — a private contractor and a power plant employee — were slain in drive-by shootings.
A mortar round fell on a Baghdad house, wounding three civilians, said police Lt. Ziad Hassan. Another civilian was seriously wounded by an Iraqi army patrol that was shooting in the air to clear traffic in a western neighborhood, police said.
Fourteen more bodies were found in an ongoing series of shadowy sectarian killings: six in the capital and eight brought in by U.S. forces to a hospital in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, police said.
Police have discovered hundreds of corpses in the past four weeks, victims of religious militants on a rampage of revenge killings. At least 21 were found Wednesday, including those of 16 Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad, police said.
U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch acknowledged a spike in "ethnic-sectarian incidents," saying that civilian casualties increased 75 percent during the period of March 11-17, compared with the previous week.
In Baghdad alone, he said, the U.S. command recorded 58 incidents involving 134 dead during that period. Attacks nationwide have been averaging 75 a day, a level that has been generally sustained since August, Lynch said.