A wave of deadly bombings in Shiite areas of the Iraqi capital Baghdad and in the country's north have killed more than 30 people. A recent spike in attacks is reviving fears Iraq could return to sectarian war.
At least 33 people were killed across Iraq on Wednesday. The afternoon began violently when two car bombs exploded near government buildings in the ethnically divided city of Kirkuk, killing at least 10. Kirkuk, an oil-rich city, is home to a mix of Arabs, Kurks and Iraqi Turks, who all have competing claims to the area.
Elsewhere, police say more than 20 lost their lives and dozens more wounded in a string of car bombings across Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods, including one outside a cafe and another at a market.
"I saw a bright flash followed by a strong explosion that shook the building. Glass was shattered everywhere, people immediately ran to the scene and started evacuating the wounded and the dead," said Jabar al-Rubaie, a policeman at the scene in the sprawling slum district of Sadr City.
At least six other bombings happened in quick succession near bus stops and outdoor markets across Baghdad.
Elsewhere, at least two police officers were killed after a suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up near a police patrol in northern Baghdad. A roadside bomb near Mosul, 390 kilometers (240 miles) to the north also killed a police officer, according to police and medical sources.
It comes amid heightened tensions between Sunni Muslims and the Shiites who now govern Iraq. Protests broke out in Sunni areas more than four months ago. Last month, at least 53 people were killed after security forces moved on protesters near the northern town of Hawijah, while more died in subsequent unrest.
The violence is raising fears that Iraq could be heading towards a new wave of sectarian violence, which pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006-2007 when tens of thousands were killed.
Relations between Iraq's Shiite, Sunni and ethnic Kurdish communities have experienced growing strain since the last US troops left at the end of 2011. The coalition government, split across political blocs belonging to these communities, frequently disagree on how to share power.
Pressure is also coming from the civil war in neighboring Syria, where mostly Sunni rebels are trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad, who follows the Alawite offshoot of Shiite Islam.
jr/jlw (AP, Reuters, dpa)