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Dozens killed in Iraq suicide bomb attacks

Officials in Iraq say dozens of people were killed across the country in shootings and suicide bombings on Saturday. The attacks targeted Shiite pilgrims as well as journalists.

At least 60 people were killed in Iraq on Saturday in what was just the latest in a series of sectarian attacks between Shiites and minority Sunnis.

In the capital, Baghdad, an attack targeting Shiite pilgrims killed 42 and injured at least 80. There was conflicting information as to whether the attack, which occurred at a checkpoint in the largely Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah, was a suicide bombing alone or if there was another bomb.

The pilgrims were walking to a shrine in Azamiyah to commemorate the death of Imam Mohammed al-Jawad, the ninth Shiite imam.

Another suicide bomber blew himself up around the same time in the town of Balad, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad, killing at least 12. Balad is a largely Shiite town surrounded by Sunni communities.

Balad Mayor Malik Lefta told the news agency AP that the cafe targeted by Saturday's attack was also hit by a deadly suicide bombing in August. Police said another bomb also exploded inside a cafe in the neighborhood of Baiyaa, killing three people and wounding another 13.

Journalists 'assassinated'

And earlier in the day, gunmen shot dead two Iraqi journalists in the northern city of Mosul (see map above), while they were working on a report. The privately-owned al-Sharqiya TV channel said the journalists, Mohammed Karim and cameraman Mohammed Ghanem, were "assassinated."

It was not immediately clear why they were targeted. Al-Sharqiya has been critical of the current Shiite-led government, with reports highlighting corruption and poor services.

Protests broke out in Sunni-majority areas at the end of 2012 and are still ongoing. Iraq's Sunni Arab minority has argued that the Shiite-led government was failing to address its concerns, instead marginalizing and targeting their community with unwarranted arrests and terrorism charges.

The unrest has risen to levels not seen since the all-out sectarian conflict of 2006 and 2007, which killed tens of thousands of people. Fears have risen in Iraq that the country could relapse back into that bloodshed.

The monitoring group Iraq Body Count says more than 6,000 people have been killed in violence across the country this year.

jr/slk (AP, Reuters, AFP)