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updated: 5/20/2013 7:58 AM

Wave of attacks kills at least 70 in Iraq

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  • Iraqi security force members inspect the site of a car-bomb attack in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday. Two car bombings in the southern city of Basra killed and wounded dozens of people, police said.

      Iraqi security force members inspect the site of a car-bomb attack in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday. Two car bombings in the southern city of Basra killed and wounded dozens of people, police said.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi officials say a car bomb in another Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad has killed 13 people.

The blast pushed the day's death toll from a deadly wave of bombings and shooting attacks across Iraq to 70.

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The officials say the latest blast struck on Monday afternoon in a busy market in the Shaab Shiite neighborhood of the Iraqi capital. A police officer says 25 people wounded in the explosion.

A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

A string of car bombs and shootings earlier in the day Monday killed at least 57 people in Shiite and Sunni areas of Iraq, officials said, escalating fears of a return to widespread sectarian bloodletting in the country.

The attacks, some of which hit market places and crowded bus stops during the morning rush hour, pushed the death toll in Iraq since Wednesday to more than 200. The bloodshed over the past week has been reminiscent of the retaliatory attacks between Sunnis and Shiites that pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006-2007.

Tensions have been worsening since Iraq's minority Sunnis began protesting what they say is mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government. The mass demonstrations, which began in December, have largely been peaceful, but the number of attacks rose sharply after a deadly security crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq on April 23.

Iraq's Shiite majority, which was oppressed under Saddam Hussein, now controls the levers of power in the country. Wishing to rebuild the nation rather than revert to open warfare, they have largely restrained their militias over the past five years or so as Sunni extremist groups such as al-Qaida have targeted them with occasional large-scale attacks.

But the renewed violence in both Shiite and Sunni areas since late last month has fueled concerns of a return to sectarian warfare.

The worst of Monday's violence took place in Baghdad, where nine car bombs ripped through open-air markets and other areas of Shiite neighborhoods, killing at least 33 people and wounding nearly 130, police officials said.

The surge in bloodshed has exasperated Iraqis, who have lived for years with the fear and uncertainty bred of random violence.

"How long do we have to continue living like this, with all the lies from the government?" asked 23-year-old Baghdad resident Malik Ibrahim. "Whenever they say they have reached a solution, the bombings come back stronger than before."

"We're fed up with them and we can't tolerate this anymore," he added.

The predominantly Shiite city of Basra in southern Iraq was also hit Monday, with two car bombs there -- one outside a restaurant and another at the city's main bus station -- killing at least 13 and wounded 40, according to provincial police spokesman Col. Abdul-Karim al-Zaidi and the head of city's health directorate, Riadh Abdul-Amir.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but such large-scale bombings bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq.

The violence also struck Sunni areas, hitting the city of Samarra north of Baghdad and the western province of Anbar, a Sunni stronghold.

A parked car bomb in Samarra went off near a gathering of pro-government Sunni militia who were waiting outside a military base to receive salaries, killing three and wounding 13, while in Anbar gunmen ambushed two police patrols near the town of Haditha, killing eight policemen, police and army officials said.

Also in Anbar, authorities found 13 dead bodies in a remote desert area, officials said. The bodies, which included eight policemen who were kidnapped by gunmen on Friday, had been killed with a gunshot to the head.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

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