Car bombs kill 25 in Shiite regions of Iraq

Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) — A string of nearly a dozen apparently coordinated bombs and a shooting killed at least 25 and wounded scores across Iraq on Sunday, extending a wave of violence that is raising fears of a return to widespread killing a decade after the U.S.-led invasion.

Violence has spiked sharply in Iraq in recent months, with the death toll rising to levels not seen since 2008. Nearly 2,000 have been killed since the start of April.

Most of the car bombs hit Shiite-majority areas and were the cause of most of the casualties, killing 21. The blasts hit half a dozen cities and towns in the south and center of the country.

The blasts began when a parked car bomb went off early morning in the industrial area of the city of Kut, killing three people and wounding 14 others. That was followed by another car bomb outside the city targeted a gathering of construction workers that killed two and wounded 12, according to police.

Kut is located 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Baghdad.

In the nearby oil-rich city of Basra, a car bomb exploded in a busy downtown street, police said. As police and rescuers rushed to the scene of the initial blast, the second car exploded. A total of six people were reported killed. Basra is located some 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad.

About an hour later, two parked car bombs ripped through two neighborhoods in the southern city of Nasiriyah, 320 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Baghdad, killing one and wounding 17, another police officer said.

And in the town of Mahmoudiya, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad, two civilians were killed and nine wounded when a car bomb went off in an open market.

In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, a blast struck a produce market, killing five and wounding 14.

And in Madain, a roadside bomb and then a car bomb exploded, killing one and wounding nine. Madain is about 20 kilometers (14 miles) southeast of Baghdad.

Near Hillah, a car bomb parked in a parking lot exploded, killing one and wounding nine. Hillah is about 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad.

The shooting happened near the restive northern city of Mosul. Police officials say gunmen attacked police guarding a remote stretch of an oil pipeline, killing four and wounding five. Mosul, some 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, has been the scene of some of the deadliest unrest outside of the Baghdad area in recent weeks.

Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't allowed to release the information.

There was no claim of responsibility for any of the attacks, but they bore the hallmark of al-Qaida fighters in Iraq, who use car bombs, suicide bombers and coordinated attacks to target security forces, members of Iraq's Shiite majority, and others.

The attacks came a day after the leader of al-Qaida's Iraq arm, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, defiantly rejected an order from the terror network's central command to stop claiming control over the organization's Syria affiliate, according to a message purportedly from him. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's comments reveal his group's determination to link its own fight against the Shiite-led government in Baghdad with the cause of rebels trying to topple the Iran-backed Syrian regime.

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Associated Press writers Sameer N. Yacoub and Adam Schreck contributed.

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