Three car bombs ripped through the southern Iraqi province of Amarah on Wednesday, killing at least 46 and wounding 149, according to The Washington Post, which reported Thursday that the death toll was likely to climb.

The Washington Post:

The attack in Amarah, in Maysan province, was believed to be its first mass bombing since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The area is considered one of the country’s safest, and the bombings shattered a hopeful, if brittle, lull in Iraq’s violence.

Coming as British forces prepare to hand over neighboring Basra province this weekend to Iraqi security forces, the bombings also underscored the fragility of southern Iraq, where rival Shiite groups are battling for influence and resources.

Police expect the death toll to rise. Immediate casualty numbers varied. Officials in Amarah said that at least 46 were killed, while Brig. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf, the spokesman for Iraq’s Interior Ministry, which oversees the national police, put the toll at 26.

Hours after the bombings, the Iraqi government fired Amarah’s police chief and said he would be replaced by Khalaf.

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