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Dozens killed as mortars hit town in Iraq

At least 22 people die when three mortar rounds strike crowded market in flashpoint area.

Last updated: 21 Feb 2014 05:56
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A mortar attack has struck a busy area in a mainly Shia town south of Iraq's capital, killing at least 22 people and wounding more than 50, authorities said.

The five mortar rounds slammed into a busy market, a residential building and a parking lot around 7pm local time as people returned home from work and shopped in the town of Mussayab, police and hospital officials said.

Police said it appeared the rounds came from the nearby Sunni-dominated town of Jurf al-Sakr, though it wasn't immediately clear who fired them.

The officials gave the casualty toll and details of the incident on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to release information to journalists.

Mussayab, about 60km south of Baghdad, is in an area that holds a mix of Sunnis and Shias and has been a flashpoint for some of the worst sectarian violence in recent years.

On Tuesday, a parked car bomb in the town killed five civilians and wounded 13, authorities said.

In 2009, a female suicide bomber targeted Shia pilgrims there, killing at least 40 people.

Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack, but Sunni fighters frequently target Shia areas and security forces.

Violence has increased in Iraq amid Sunni anger over perceived mistreatment and random arrests by the Shia-led government.

Last year, Iraq saw the highest death toll - 8,868 - since the worst of the country's sectarian bloodletting began to subside in 2007, according to United Nations figures.

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