Bombers struck at Shiite pilgrims celebrating a religious festival in Baghdad and across Iraq on Wednesday, killing more than 70 people in one of the bloodiest days since the last US troops left the country in December.
In total, more than 21 bombs exploded on Wednesday in Baghdad and the southern Iraqi cities of Kerbala, Balad, Haswa and Ramadi which are predominantly Shiite areas that have been targeted before by Sunni Islamist insurgents.
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The bombings appeared to be the work of Sunni insurgents who often hit Shiite targets to try to reignite the intercommunal violence that killed tens of thousands of people in 2006-2007.
Scene of Kirkuk attack (Photo: EPA)
It was the worst day of violence since early January, when four bombs in Baghdad killed 73, and the latest in a spate of bombings on Shiite religious sites.
At least 30 people were killed when four blasts hit pilgrims across Baghdad as they marched through the city to mark the anniversary of the death of Shiite imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a great-grandson of Prophet Mohammad.
Iraq's renewed violence and political tensions will be closely watched by Sunni Gulf neighbors, and their rival, Shiite power Iran, who have meddled in Baghdad's politics in the past as they compete for regional influence.
Earlier this month, 26 people were killed and more than 190 wounded when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-rigged car outside a Shiite religious office in Baghdad, an attack claimed by al-Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate, Islamic State of Iraq.
Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is fending off attempts by Sunni, Kurdish and some Shiite rivals to organize a vote of no confidence against him. Critics accuse him of failing to fulfill promises to share government posts among the blocks.
Many Iraqi Sunnis fear Maliki is slowly sidelining them from the political process and trying to consolidate his own alliance's Shiite power at their expense.
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