Clashes between Iraqi government troops and al-Qaeda-inspired fighters have claimed the lives of tens across the country, where electoral fever is on the rise ahead of general elections scheduled for April 30. 

Forty fighters and an army officer were killed near Baghdad on Thursday, authorities said, as attacks elsewhere in the country left five people dead.

The Associated Press news agency reported that a statement was posted on the Interior Ministry's website, in which spokesman Saad Maan Ibrahim said 40 "terrorist attackers" were killed when members of security forces foiled an assault by armed groups on a military base in Youssifiyah.

Maan said that one army officer was killed. Youssifiyah is about 20km south of Baghdad.

Police officials said the attack started late on Wednesday and lasted for a few hours. They confirmed the military's account and said the assailants withdrew after the arrival of security enforcements to the area.

On Thursday afternoon, a car bomb exploded in a commercial street in Mahmoudiya town just south of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding 12, police said.

Another car bombing in the town of Haswa, 50km south of Baghdad, killed one person and wounded five, according to police's narration.

Medical officials in nearby hospitals confirmed the casualty figures from the car bombings. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to journalists.

Violence has escalated in Iraq over the past year. Last year, Iraq saw its highest death toll since the worst of the country's sectarian bloodletting began to subside in 2007, according to United Nations figures.

The country will hold its first parliamentary elections since the withdrawal of US troops.

In the city of Hillah, a car bomb exploded on Thursday near the house of Ali al-Maliki, a Shia candidate running in the upcoming election. The explosion killed a civilian passer-by and wounded six.

Police said that neither al-Maliki nor any family members were hurt in the attacks.

Al-Maliki is running in the bloc headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Hillah is 95km south of Baghdad.

Source: AP