At least 23 people have been killed in Iraq in a series of attacks which targeted security checkpoints and Shia worshippers, officials have said.
Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a police checkpoint on Thursday in the town of Youssifiyah, just south of the capital Baghdad, killing three police and four civilians, and wounding another 21 people.
Later on, a suicide bomber driving a pickup loaded with explosives struck a checkpoint manned by police and Shia militiamen near the city of Samarra, killing eight people and wounding 23 others.
Samarra, located 95km north of Baghdad, and surrounding areas have repeatedly come under attack in recent months by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) armed group.
In western Baghdad, a suicide bomber set off his explosives belt among Shia worshippers who were leaving a mosque there, killing eight worshippers and wounding 16 others.
ISIL and other Sunni armed groups consider Shias to be apostates deserving of death.
Anonymous medical officials confirmed the casualty figures from all attacks to the AP news agency.
Iraq has been experiencing bombings almost daily, mainly targeting the Shia majority and security forces.
The attacks are often claimed by ISIL, which seized much of northern and western Iraq last year.
Analysis from our correspondent: Imran Khan
|Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan|
Samarra is important because it is home to the Al Askari shrine, one of the most important in Shia Islam. When it was attacked on February 22, 2006 it was the spark that thrust Iraq into sectarian violence, the effects of which are still being felt today.
That attack was claimed by al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group that morphed into ISIL. It’s a target for ISIL as they see shrines as heresy. A successful attack would no doubt plunge Iraq back into sectarian violence, and that’s an outcome that ISIL want.
There are also regional implications: Iran has stated that if any of the shrines are attacked then it will have no choice but to send in troops to defend them. Iran is a Shia country predominantly and public outcry over any attack will force them to intervene.
Intervention would have serious implications for Saudi Arabia who are already concerned at the role Iran plays in Iraq. What’s of note about Thursday’s attack is the use of truck bombs. Truck bombs are a bulky delivery system for explosives, they are more likely to be discovered at checkpoints and are harder to disguise than a car – the preferred method of explosive delivery in Iraq for fighters.
That indicates that this was designed to be a major attack on an entry point toward the shrine. Iraq’s security forces have so far successfully defended the shrine, but it’s looking increasingly likely that ISIL and groups sympathetic to them are pushing toward Samarra.