A medical official in Khadimiya's main hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the wounded were mainly men, but that three women were among the victims of this latest apparently sectarian attack.

 

Baghdad is the focus of a US and Iraqi security operation designed to stop the fighting and root out militia and fighters opposed to the US presence.

 

Commanders say it might be many months before the death toll begins to fall.

 

The government of Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, is struggling to kick-start a stalled national reconciliation process, and the city remains divided into rival Sunni and Shia districts beset with gun and bomb attacks.

Chemical arms

 

The blasts come as UN inspectors said that fighters in Iraq were using chlorine to kill and wound civilians and could, given the country's expertise in chemical arms in the past, develop other weapons-grade toxic agents.

 

Media reports have shown that armed groups are using chemicals, such as chlorine, combined with explosives for dispersal, the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), said in a report to the Security Council posted on its website on Tuesday.

 

"Such attacks have resulted in the killing of tens and injuring of hundreds of people throughout Iraq," UNMOVIC said.


There have been at least 10 attacks using chlorine, and several others were attempted and foiled by security forces, UNMOVIC said in its quarterly report, dated May 29.


"Given the current security situation in Iraq, it is possible that some non-state actors will continue to seek to acquire toxic agents or their chemical precursors in small quantities," the report said.