A car bomb has ripped through a popular fruit-and-vegetable market north of Baghdad, killing at least 16 people as Iraqis searched for groceries, police said.

The blast, which also wounded 24 people, struck in the predominantly Sunni Arab city of Samarra at about 6:45 pm (15:45 GMT).

It came a day after a wave of nationwide violence, including a spate of bombings in the Iraqi capital, killed at least 80 people.

The attack was the latest in a surge of unrest, with more than 3,700 people killed so far this year, that has sparked concerns Iraq is headed back to the all-out bloodshed that left tens of thousands dead in 2006 and 2007.

Thursday evening's attack struck the Samarra market, locally known as the Mraydi, at a time when struggling Iraqis typically frequent it in order to take advantage of reduced prices as surplus stock is sold before closing.

The market, the city's biggest grocery shopping area, lies in the Jiberia neighbourhood of eastern Samarra.

Attacks elsewhere in Iraq left three others dead: a soldier, a civilian and a man who was shot dead as he was trying to plant a roadside bomb.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest bloodshed.

Sunni groups linked to al-Qaeda frequently trigger car bombs in the middle of crowded areas packed with civilians, ostensibly in a bid to undermine confidence in the authorities and security forces.

Iraq has seen a marked rise in the level of violence this year, coinciding with demonstrations by the Sunni Arab minority against alleged ill-treatment.

More than 600 people have already been killed so far this month, according to an AFP tally.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies