BAGHDAD (AP) — Fighting between Iraqi government troops and al-Qaida-inspired militants killed 40 gunmen and an army officer Thursday near Baghdad, authorities said, as attacks elsewhere in the country left five people dead ahead of elections this month.
In a statement posted on the Interior Ministry's website, spokesman Saad Maan Ibrahim said that members of security forces foiled an assault by the militants on a military base in Youssifiyah, killing 40 "terrorist attackers."
Maan said that one army officer was killed. Youssifiyah is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Baghdad.
Police officials said the attack started late Wednesday and lasted for a few hours. They confirmed the military's account and said the attackers withdrew after the arrival of security enforcements to the area.
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, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Baghdad, killed one person and wounded five, police said.
Medical officials in nearby hospitals confirmed the casualty figures from the car bombings. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized 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 U.S. troops on April 30. In the city of Hillah, a car bomb exploded Thursday near the house of Ali al-Maliki, a Shiite 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 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad.