World News – A spate of bombings targeting Shias across Iraq killed 16 people on Thursday, the latest in a spike in unrest amid weeks of anti-government protests and a political crisis engulfing the country.
The attacks marked the third consecutive day of violence which has claimed 75 lives overall, including that of a Sunni Iraqi MP killed by a suicide bomber and 33 others who died in twin car bombs in an ethnically-mixed northern city.
It comes as Iraq grapples with a long-running political dispute, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki facing protests hardening opposition against his rule and calls from many of his erstwhile government partners for his ouster.
No group has claimed responsibility for the latest bombings, but Sunni militants often launch attacks in a bid to destabilise the government and push Iraq back towards the sectarian violence that blighted it from 2005 to 2008.
The deadliest of Thursday’s blasts took place in Dujail, 60 kilometres (35 miles) north of Baghdad, where a car bomb outside a Shia mosque killed nine people and wounded 56 others, according to town mayor Mohammed Hassan.
Five other people were killed and 15 wounded by a car bomb near a football stadium on the outskirts of the predominantly Shia city of Hilla, south of Baghdad.
Witnesses reported residents throwing stones at a police officer after he blamed locals for helping militants carry out the bombing. Police in the town where the attack took place said the officer was later detained.
Bombings also struck Baghdad, Hawija and Karbala.
There were no casualties in Hawija but two people were killed and one wounded in a roadside bomb in north Baghdad, according to medics.
And in Karbala, a Shia shrine city south of the capital, 17 people were wounded, including eight Afghan Shia pilgrims, according to officials.
Afghan ambassador to Baghdad Mohammed Anwarzai confirmed to AFP that eight of his compatriots were wounded.
The violence comes a day after 49 people were killed in attacks in Baghdad and north of the capital — Iraq’s deadliest day since November 29 — including seven who died from twin car bombs in the city of Kirkuk.
On Tuesday, a suicide attacker killed a Sunni Iraqi MP, Ayfan al-Essawi, west of Baghdad. Hundreds of mourners attended Essawi’s funeral outside the mostly Sunni town of Fallujah on Wednesday.
The lawmaker was a former leader of the Sahwa — Sunni tribal militias who turned against Al-Qaeda and sided with the US military from late 2006, helping to turn the tide of Iraq’s bloody insurgency.
Sahwa fighters are frequently targeted for attacks by Sunni militants who view them as traitors.
The violence comes amid a political crisis that has pitted Maliki against several of his ministers just months ahead of key provincial elections.
Weeks of anti-government demonstrations in Sunni Arab majority areas, supported by several parties that are members of Maliki’s unity cabinet, have hardened opposition against the premier, a Shia.
Attacks in Iraq are down from their peak in 2006-2007, but they are still common across the country. AFP