At least 13 people have been killed after three bomb blasts went off north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
The explosions happened shortly before sunset on Wednesday, underscoring the volatility of the country eight months after the last US troops pulled out.
Fighters, led by the local branch of al-Qaeda, are trying to re-establish themselves in their old strongholds and undermine the government.
The first bomb went off in Baqouba, about 60km northeast of Baghdad. Police said two civilians and one
police officer were killed, and five people were wounded in the attack.
Minutes later, authorities said, a car bomb exploded at the entrance of the main market in Muqdadiyah, about 90km north of Baghdad. A second blast went off as police arrived on the scene, killing seven and wounding 26 people.
The bombs exploded shortly before the ceremonial breaking of the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan, when families and friends gather for a sunset meal.
Police said the Muqdadiyah market was crowded with shoppers who were buying last-minute supplies for the “iftar” meal.
No claim of responsibility
Baqouba and Muqdadiyah are both located in the province of Diyala, a former stronghold of al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch. The province is home to both Sunni and Shia Muslims.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though large co-ordinated bombings are often the work of al-Qaeda’s local franchise.
The al-Qaeda offshoot, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, has declared its intentions to reclaim areas from which it was routed by the US and its local allies.
It has for years had a hot-and-cold relationship with the global terror network’s leadership.
Both shared the goal of targeting the US military in Iraq and, to an extent, undermining the Shia government that replaced Saddam Hussein’s regime.
But al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri distanced themselves from the Iraqi fighters in 2007 as they killed Iraqi civilians instead of focusing on Western targets.
Generally, al-Qaeda in Iraq does not launch attacks or otherwise operate beyond Iraq’s borders. But in early 2012, al-Zawahri, who took over al-Qaeda’s leadership after bin Laden’s death in May 2011, urged Iraqi fighters to support the Sunni-based uprising in neighbouring Syria against President Bashar Assad, an Alawite. The sect is a branch of Shia Islam.
Earlier in the day, gunmen killed three people in two separate attacks in and near the northern city of Mosul.
Two brothers were shot during a pre-dawn attack on a house in the small village of Qahataniya, outside Mosul, according to police. The brothers were Yazidis, a persecuted Kurdish-speaking minority sect.
The Yazidi faith combines various ancient beliefs with elements of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
In the second attack, gunmen killed a policeman in central Mosul, another police officer said.
Hospital and morgue officials confirmed the casualties. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information to reporters.