Residents gather at the site of a car bomb attack in
Baghdad's Kadhimiya district. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Five car bombs killed at least 34 people in Shi'ite areas
of Iraq, police and medics said, as sectarian and ethnic
tensions intensify ahead of provincial elections in April.
Two car bombs were detonated simultaneously at a bus stop
near a Friday street market selling birds and other pets in
the Shi'ite district of Kadhimiya in Baghdad, killing at
least 16 people and wounding another 44, police and hospital
Footage of the scene showed dozens of buses and taxis
destroyed by the explosion and blood on the ground.
Ongoing violence following the withdrawal of U.S. troops in
late 2011 is stoking fears of a return to the sectarian
strife that killed tens of thousands of Iraqis in 2006 and
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, is facing mass
protests by disenchanted Sunni Muslims and is at loggerheads
with ethnic Kurds who run their northern region autonomously
The prospect of the election is hardening the divisions as
political leaders appeal to their constituencies with often
hostile rhetoric that rejects compromise.
In the Shi'ite city of Hilla, 100 km (60 miles) south of
Baghdad, 15 people were killed in two car bomb explosions at
a vegetable market.
"I was shopping when I heard the first explosion. I was
scared and tried to reach my car to run away but before I got
in the second explosion went off," said Habib al-Murshidi who
was at the scene.
"I saw many people, women and old men lying on the ground
which was covered with blood and scattered fruit and
Another three people were killed by a parked car bomb in
Kerbala, 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Baghdad, police said.
Thousands of Sunni Muslims have taken to the streets since
late December in protest at what they see as the
marginalisation of their sect since the fall of Saddam
Hussein and the empowerment of Iraq's Shi'ite majority
through the ballot box.
The demonstrations in the Sunni heartland of Anbar are also
compounding fears that war in neighbouring Syria, where Sunni
rebels are fighting to topple a leader backed by Shi'ite
Iran, could further upset Iraq's own delicate sectarian and
No group claimed responsibility for the attacks on Friday.
Iraq is home to several Sunni insurgent groups that have
carried out at least one high-casualty attack a month since
the U.S. withdrawal. They include a local branch of al Qaeda,
the Islamic State of Iraq, which often targets Shi'ites,
seeking to reignite sectarian strife.
On Monday, a suicide bomber attacked a government-backed
militia in Taji, killing at least 22 people -- the seventh of
eight suicide bombings in Iraq over the past month alone.