An indefinite curfew was imposed on Baghdad last night and its international airport closed after the city was convulsed by the deadliest sectarian violence since the US led war began in March 2003.
Suspected Sunni-Arab militants launched a salvo of five car bombs and two mortar rounds on one of the capital's poorest neighbourhoods, the densely populated Shia slum of Sadr City.
The car bomb and mortars exploded in rapid succession leaving carnage in their wake in three street markets. At least 160 people were killed and over 257 injured.
Shia militias responded immediately by launching 10 mortar rounds on Baghdad's main Sunni mosque, the Abu Hanifa mosque, blowing a hole in the dome, killing one person and wounding 14 others. Rounds were also fired at the headquarters of the country's top Sunni organisation, the Association of Muslim Scholars, which has close contacts with the insurgents.