BAGHDAD - Violence across Iraq, including bombings against Shias, killed 23 people on Wednesday.

The bloodshed was the latest in a months-long surge in unrest that has forced Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to appeal for Washington’s help in combating militancy as Iraqi action has failed to stem the unrelenting wave of attacks.

Bombings on Wednesday mostly struck north and west of Baghdad, targeting Shias and members of the security forces.

On the outskirts of Baquba, north of the capital and one of Iraq’s most violent areas, three coordinated bombs struck an Ashura procession. Overall, eight people were killed and 25 others were wounded in the blasts, security and medical officials said.

As a result, security measures are stepped up with more than 35,000 soldiers and policemen currently deployed to Karbala and surrounding areas, with concentric security perimeters barring vehicles from entering the city while helicopters hover overhead.

Provincial authorities expect two million pilgrims - Iraqis as well as foreigners - will have visited Karbala in the 10 days leading up to Ashura, with all of the city’s hotels fully booked.

“I carry these iron weights every year, since I was 16 and until now,” said Shawkat Hussein, a 60-year-old pilgrim visiting Karbala from Pakistan. “What I am carrying does not compare to what Hussein did for his religion.” Elsewhere in Iraq on Wednesday, bombings targeting security forces killed 15 people, while police gunned down three militants in a raid.

East of the predominantly Sunni Arab town of Tikrit, a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle rigged with explosives at a police checkpoint, killing 11 people, including three policemen. And near the former insurgent bastion of Fallujah, two bombs targeting the homes of policemen, followed by a third that went off as onlookers gathered at the scene, killed four.

Wednesday’s deaths were the latest in Iraq’s worst violence since 2008, with more than 5,600 people killed this year, according to an AFP tally based on reports from security and medical officials.

Maliki has called for help from the United States in the form of intelligence-sharing and the delivery of new weapons systems in an effort to deal with the unrest.

Turkey’s foreign minister also offered Ankara’s assistance during a recent visit to Baghdad.

In addition to major security problems, authorities have failed to provide adequate basic services such as electricity and clean water, and corruption is widespread. Political squabbling has paralysed the government, while parliament has passed almost no major legislation in years.