At least 21 dead after car bombs explode in Baghdad
CAR bombs and a suicide attack tore through food markets in two Iraqi towns north of Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 21 people in unrest apparently caused by militants determined to provoke civil war.
No group claimed responsibility for Monday's attacks, but officials blame most of the sectarian violence that has killed nearly 2,000 people since April on Sunni Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda's local wing.
Officials said two car bombs exploded and a suicide bomber in another vehicle detonated his explosives in a food market in the mostly Shi'ite Muslim town of Jadidat al-Shatt in Diyala province, 40 km (25 miles) north of the capital.
The triple blasts left 13 dead and more than 50 wounded among the wreckage of fruit and vegetable stalls, local officials and police said.
"I was selling watermelon and suddenly I heard a powerful blast at the entrance to the market. I fled from the dust and smoke when a second blast turned the place into hell," said Hassan Hadi, a wounded farmer being treated in hospital.
"I was hit in my leg and lay down in shock."
Another car bomb hit a market in the religiously-mixed town of Taji, 20 km (12 miles) north of Baghdad, killing at least eight more people, police and hospital sources said.
Iraqi police also defused bombs planted at two oil wells near the northern city of Kirkuk on Monday, and while exports to Turkey's Ceyhan port were not affected, militants have increased attacks on oil facilities on which Iraq's economy depends.
Recent violence is the worst since the inter-communal bloodletting five years ago that killed tens of thousands and partitioned Baghdad into districts based on religious sect.
Growing violence has tracked rising political tensions between Shi'ite majority leaders and minority Sunnis who feel their sect has been marginalised since the fall of Saddam Hussein after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The war in neighbouring Syria, where Shi'ite Iran and the region's Sunni Gulf powers are backing opposing sides, has put pressure on Iraq's own fragile sectarian and ethnic balance.
Invigorated by Syria's mostly Sunni revolt and Iraqi Sunni discontent, al Qaeda's local wing, Islamic State of Iraq, is regaining ground lost during its war with U.S. troops who left Iraq in December 2011.