(Update: Iraqi officials raise Baghdad death toll to 86, the deadliest attack this year.)
Baghdad (AP) - A series of explosions targeting government and commercial buildings struck Baghdad Wednesday, killing at least 86 (new number) people and wounding more than 300, Iraqi police and medical officials said.
The blasts in the capital followed a string of attacks in Iraq this month that have claimed hundreds of lives and raised concerns about the ability of Iraqi security forces to keep the lid on violence in advance of an American withdrawal.
The deadliest was a car bomb near the foreign ministry, which killed at least 59 people and wounded 250. Officials said the toll may climb as rescue workers continue to search through rubble and debris. The ministry is close to the fortified Green Zone. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
The force of the explosion blew concrete slabs off the front of the 10-story building, shattering windows and crushing cars parked outside. Dozens of cars were burned.
The blast was so strong it also damaged nearby buildings. A large area outside the ministry was covered by debris and broken glass and it damage windows in the parliament building, inside the Green Zone.
The midmorning attacks hit first near the finance ministry in northern Baghdad and then minutes later near the foreign ministry. Around the same time as the explosion near the foreign ministry, mortars struck inside the Green Zone. It was not immediately known what damage the mortars caused or whether there were causalities.
Another car bomb targeted a joint Iraqi police and army patrol just outside the finance ministry, killing at least eight people and wounding 22, a police official said. Twenty-two were wounded, said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
Another blast in the commercial area of western Baghdad's Baiyaa district killed two people and wounded 16, while a bombing in the commercial district of Bab al-Muadham killed six people and wounded 24, authorities said.
A recent rise in bombings has dealt a blow to Iraqi government efforts to restore a sense of normalcy in the capital as the overall level of violence remains low compared with recent years. Iraqi security forces have begun removing concrete blast walls, which have been credited with helping reducing violence. The walls have been coming down in residential and commercial areas with the aim of improving appearance and easing traffic congestion.
Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said Monday that he wanted to deploy U.S. soldiers alongside Iraqi and Kurdish troops in northern Iraq where some of the worst attacks in recent weeks have been carried out.
U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq's cities on June 30 under a security pact that outlines the American withdrawal by the end of 2011. President Barack Obama has ordered all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010, leaving a contingency of up to 50,000 U.S. troops in training and advising roles.
Odierno said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been receptive to the idea, though has not approved it.
Associated Press writers Hamid Ahmed, Sameer N. Yacoub and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.
The blasts in Baghdad raise concerns about the ability of Iraqi security forces to keep the lid on violence in advance of an American withdrawal.