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Insurgent attacks across Iraq kill at least 24


BAGHDAD >> Insurgent attacks across Iraq, including a suicide bombing targeting a Shiite wedding party, killed at least 24 people today, authorities said.

Attacks have been on the rise in Iraq since a deadly security crackdown in April on a Sunni protest camp. More than 3,000 people have been killed in violence during the past few months, raising fears Iraq could see a new round of widespread sectarian bloodshed similar to that which brought the country to the edge of civil war in 2006 and 2007.

Violence also has stepped up in strikes on so-called soft targets — like civilians at coffee shops or shopping along busy commercial streets. On Thursday night in the northern town of Dujail, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt in the midst of a wedding party for a Shiite family, killing nine civilians and wounding 27, a police officer said.

Dujail, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad, is a Shiite Muslim town surrounded by Sunni areas. Tensions between the two branches of Islam have grown as Sunnis feel locked out of the country’s Shiite-dominated government.

In another bloody attack, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden fuel tanker into a military barrack in Iraq’s western Anbar province. The attack killed at least nine soldiers and wounded 11, a police officer said.

A former insurgent stronghold, Anbar province is one of the areas where militants have intensified their attacks to undermine government efforts to increase security.

Also Thursday, gunmen in two cars killed a local leader for pro-government, anti-al-Qaida Sunni militia in Madain, as well as two of his guards, another police officer said. Another guard was wounded, the officer said.

Madain is about 25 kilometers (15 miles) southeast of Baghdad.

Sunni militiamen, or Awakening Councils, fought al-Qaida during the country’s brutal sectarian war. Many of its fighters were former al-Qaida members and are seen as traitors by the insurgents.

In the northern city of Mosul, a bomb went off next to a police patrol, killing two police officers as gunmen shot dead a tribal sheik in another attack, police said.

Mosul is about 360 kilometers (220 miles) northwest of Baghdad.

Medical officials confirmed all of the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly to journalists.

There was no claim of responsibility for today’s attacks. Sunni extremists such as al-Qaida’s Iraq arm that seek to undermine the Shiite-led government are frequently blamed for attacks targeting civilians.

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