BAGHDAD - At least 57 people were killed on Monday in car bomb attacks in Baghdad and the north and south of Iraq, police and medical sources said.

One attack took place near a crowded market in the town of Khalis, about 80 km (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad, killing 35 people, police said.

“The driver begged police to be allowed to park his vehicle in order to buy medication from a nearby pharmacy and five minutes later it (the bomb) went off and caused huge destruction,” police captain Mohammed al-Tamimi said.

In the town of Al Zubair, about 15 km southwest of the oil town of Basra, a second attack took place also near a crowded market. Ten people died.

Another car bomb exploded in the Hussainiya district of the northern outskirts of Baghdad, killing 12 people, police and medical sources said.

Iraq, a major OPEC oil producer, is struggling to come up with a formula to contain Islamic State, the ultra-hardline group that controls a third of the country and wants to redraw the map of the Middle East. Islamic State has previously claimed responsibility for car and suicide bombings. AFP adds: The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a deadly car bomb blast Monday near the oil hub of Basra, a southern region where it was thought to have little or no reach.

“The soldiers of the caliphate managed to detonate a parked car bomb amidst a gathering of polytheist Rafidha in Basra,” said the statement posted on social media.

According to security officials, at least 10 people were killed when a car bomb exploded in a market area in the town of Zubayr, just southwest of Basra.

“At least 10 people were killed. We also have 24 wounded,” said Jabbar al-Saadi of the Basra provincial council’s security committee. He said the explosion, which occurred around 5:30 pm (1430 GMT), rocked a market area known as Souk al-Halaqin in Zubayr, just 10 kilometres (six miles) southwest of Basra.

The Basra region has been spared the violence unleashed on other parts of Iraq by the Islamic State group since last year, but feuding between rival armed groups and criminal gangs has risen lately. Two other car bombs went off in areas north of Baghdad that have been routinely targeted by the militants. A blast in a market area of Khalis, around 55 kilometres (35 miles) from the capital, killed 10 people and wounded 21, a senior police officer said.

A local medical source in Diyala province confirmed the casualty toll.

Diyala, a religiously and ethnically mixed province that IS partly took over last year, was declared liberated by the government in January.

In Hosseiniyah, barely 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Baghdad, a car bomb detonated in a busy area, killing five people and wounding at least 17, a police colonel said.

According to figures released by the UN Mission in Iraq on Thursday, 717 Iraqis were killed and 1,216 wounded in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in September.

The Baghdad governorate alone accounted for 257 of the deaths.

The United Nations says its figures account only for the casualties that can be verified, and are likely to be far below reality.