Bombs kill 23 in Iraq as sectarian strife flares
BAGHDAD — At least 23 people were killed and 87 wounded in attacks across Iraq on Monday, police said, underlining sectarian and ethnic divisions that threaten to further destabilize the country a year after U.S. troops left.
Tensions between Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni factions in Iraq's power-sharing government have been on the rise this year. Militants strike almost daily and have staged at least one big attack a month.
The latest violence followed more than a week of protests against Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki by thousands of people from the minority Sunni community.
No group claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, which targeted government officials, police patrols and members of both the Sunni and Shiite communities.
Seven people from the same Sunni family were killed by a bomb planted near their home in the town of Mussayab, south of Baghdad.
In the Shiite majority city of Hilla, also in the south, a parked car bomb exploded near the convoy of the governor of Babil province, missing him but killing two others, police said.
“We heard the sound of a big explosion and the windows of our office shattered. We immediately lay on the ground,” said 28-year-old Mohammed Ahmed.
In the capital, Baghdad, five people were killed by a parked car bomb targeting pilgrims before a Shiite religious rite this week, police and hospital sources said.
Although violence is far lower than during the sectarian slaughter of 2006-2007, about 2,000 people have been killed in Iraq this year upon the withdrawal last December of U.S. troops, who led an invasion in 2003 to overthrow Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.
Violence also hit Iraq's disputed territories, over which both the central government and the autonomous Kurdish region claim jurisdiction.
Three militants and one Kurdish guard were killed in the oil-producing, ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, where militants driving a car packed with explosives tried to break into a Kurdish security office.