A pair of car bombings, at least one of them a suicide attack, killed 26 Iraqis and injured dozens in Baghdad on Monday, Iraqi security and hospital officials said.
The U.S. military put the death toll at 11. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.
The violence came despite stepped-up security as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited the capital. It did not affect his trip.
The number of attacks has dropped more than 60% since the U.S. finished deploying an additional 28,500 troops to Iraq last summer, according to U.S. figures. But the toll of violent deaths has started to inch back up in recent weeks, boosted by a few seemingly well-planned bombings.
The apparently coordinated suicide bombings of two Baghdad pet markets last month killed nearly 100 people, and a suicide attack on Shiite Muslim pilgrims on the road to Karbala killed more than 60.
In Monday’s worst attack, the bomber drove an explosives-laden car into a checkpoint staffed by Iraqi soldiers and a neighborhood security group, killing at least 22 people and injuring 42, police and hospital officials said.
The U.S. military said the bomb was in a parked car; it put the toll at nine dead and seven wounded.
Ahmed Naim was at work at a hardware store when the explosion ripped through a busy downtown street on the east side of the Tigris River.
“I saw a fireball in front of the shop,” he said. “The whole place shook. I felt a hot liquid on my body, then I saw it was blood covering my face and hands.”
Naim fainted and woke up at Medical City hospital, where staff removed thick shards of glass from his face, shoulder and other parts of his body.
“The owner of the shop replaced the glass front of the shop with a thicker type fearing the explosions,” Naim said ruefully in a telephone interview.
He said hospital staff were struggling to cope with the flood of casualties, treating some on the floor because there weren’t enough beds.
“I don’t know the reason why the government doesn’t build new emergency hospitals after five years now,” Naim said.
Businessmen helped ferry the dead and wounded to the hospital but said the concrete blast barriers set up to deter such attacks made it difficult to reach the victims.
“We had to carry them for around 50 meters to get them to the cars,” said Sabri Hassan, who owns a nearby store. “Some of them died as we were taking them to the cars.”
In another part of east Baghdad, an explosives-packed minibus driven by a suicide bomber exploded at a checkpoint, killing four Iraqis and injuring 10, according to Iraqi police. U.S. officials said at least two Iraqi security force members were killed and five people were injured.
There were also conflicting accounts of the intended target. The U.S. military said the bomber was driving toward the Iraqi army headquarters for east Baghdad and was intercepted by Iraqi soldiers at the checkpoint. The police said the explosion targeted a nearby building used by a national police rapid-response unit.
In other violence, the U.S. military reported the discovery Sunday of a grave containing 14 bodies south of the city of Samarra. The victims were believed to be members of the Iraqi security forces or one of the local guard groups known as Sons of Iraq, the military said in a statement. Their hands had been tied behind their backs and they had been shot in the head.
Special correspondents in Baghdad contributed to this report.