BAGHDAD -- Three bombs ripped through a sprawling Baghdad market Sunday, police said, killing eight at the beginning of a Muslim religious festival and just hours after the prime minister warned of Iraq's continued danger.
Police said the blasts were planted in different parts of the Shorja market in downtown Baghdad, striking as shoppers were preparing for this week's Eid al-Adha feast. City health officials confirmed the casualties, and said 19 people were injured.
A thick black plume of smoke from the bombs hovered over the Tigris River and could be easily seen against Baghdad's skyline. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
The attack comes just hours after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged his security forces to step up their vigilance against violence. Al-Maliki said continued threats shows that insurgents still want to prevent Iraq from becoming a stable nation, but did not specify the threats.
"You have done much for Iraq, but Iraq remains in the circle of danger," al-Maliki told security officials with whom he met at the start of the holiday. "It needs more attention and care to confront those who want to damage security, who are plotting to turn this Eid, the Eid of happiness to Iraqis, into Eid of blood."
Iraqi Shiites mark the beginning of the Eid on Monday, while Sunnis do so on Sunday.
Over the last several weeks, al-Maliki's government has detained 615 people that al-Maliki says are members of Iraq's former ruling Baath Party that was ousted from power in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Sunnis have accused al-Maliki, who is Shiite, of cracking down on Baathists as an excuse to exert political pressure on them.
Violence across Iraq has dropped dramatically, but deadly attacks still happen nearly everyday as the U.S. moves to withdraw all of its 33,000 troops from Iraq by the end of the year.