Iraqis killed in suspected sectarian attacks

Blasts near Shia Muslim shrine in Baghdad and targeted shootings elsewhere leave at least 17 people dead.

    Iraqis killed in suspected sectarian attacks
    Violence has ebbed in Iraq since 2005-2008, but Summi fighters still frequently attack mainly Shia areas [Reuters]

    Back-to-back bomb blasts in a crowded Baghdad market near a revered Shia Muslim shrine and several shootings targeting government officials have killed at least 17 people.

    The bombings, which happened within about a minute of each other on Saturday, appeared to be aimed at intimidating Iraq's Shia community, who are a frequent target of Sunni fighters.

    Police said at least 11 people were killed and 35 were wounded in the blasts.

    The blasts struck about 500 metres from a shrine where two revered imams are buried, damaging nearby shops and buildings, according to police, who confirmed the casualty figures.

    The attacks came as many shoppers were out buying new clothes in anticipation of the Eid al-Adha holiday, which begins in about a week.

    "When I came out, I saw burning carts and merchant stalls, and children crying and women screaming out of fear. The whole place was full of panic."

    Earlier in the day, armed men had opened fire on a police patrol in the Shia neighbourhood of al-Shaab, killing two policemen and wounding another.

    Authorities also said assailants shot dead a police lieutenant-colonel who worked with the State Identity Directorate late on Friday in Baghdad's Karradah district.

    Hospital officials confirmed the deaths in the attacks.

    Checkpoint attacked

    Near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, armed men attacked a police checkpoint and killed three officers, according to two police officials.

    Assailants also shot and killed a prison official in a drive-by-shooting during the morning rush hour in eastern Baghdad, Haider al-Saadi, just ministry spokesman, said.

    Violence has ebbed in Iraq since the peak of the bloodletting in 2005-2008, but fighters still frequently attack predominantly Shia Muslim areas, government officials and security forces in an attempt to undermine the Shia-led government.

    Saturday's attacks marked Iraq's deadliest day since September 30, when a string of coordinated blasts that hit Shia neighborhoods and struck at Iraqi security forces left at least 26 dead.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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