A series of car bombs exploded across Iraq's capital tonight, killing at least 44 people in a day of violence that saw militants storm a university in the country's restive Anbar province, authorities said.
The attacks in Baghdad largely focused on Shiite neighborhoods, underscoring the sectarian violence now tearing at Iraq years after the withdrawal of US troops.
Meanwhile, separate fighting in a northern city killed 21 police officers and 38 militants, officials said.
The first Baghdad attack took place tonight in the capital's western district of Baiyaa, killing nine people and wounding 22. Later on, seven car bombs in different parts of Baghdad killed at least 35 people and wounded 62, police said.
All the attacks happened in a one-hour period, authorities said.
Hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details to journalists.
Violence in Iraq has spiked following a security crackdown on a Sunni protest camp last year. According to UN figures, 8,868 people were killed in Iraq in 2013.
Earlier today, gunmen killed three police officers on guard at the gate of Anbar University, a police and a military official said. The gunmen then detained dozens of students inside a university dorm, the officials said.
Sabah Karhout, the head of Anbar's provincial council, told reporters that hundreds of students were inside the university compound when the attack started.
Ahmed al-Mehamdi, a student who was taken hostage, said he awoke to the crackle of gunfire, looked out the window and saw armed men dressed in black racing across the campus.
Minutes later, the gunmen entered the dormitory and ordered everybody to stay in their rooms while taking others away, he said.
The Shiite students at the school were terrified, al-Mehamdi said, as the gunmen identified themselves as belonging to an al-Qaeda splinter group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The Sunni terror group, fighting in Syria with other rebels trying to topple President Bashar Assad, is known for massive, bloody attacks in Iraq as well often targeting Shiites that they view as heretics.
The Islamic State did not immediately claim the attack on the school, which says it has more than 10,000 students, making it one of the country's largest.
Several hours later, gunmen left the university under unclear circumstances.