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Iraq attacks on Shi'ites kill dozens

02 July 2013, 13:31

Baquba - Bombings targeting Shi'ite Muslims, including a suicide bombing against the funeral of an Iraqi soldier, killed at least 41 people on Monday evening, officials said, updating an earlier toll.

Both the attacks struck in confessionally divided Diyala province, north of Baghdad, with the suicide bomb at a Shi'ite religious hall killing 23 people, and another blast at a cafe in provincial capital Baquba killing 10 more.

More than 2 500 people were killed in Iraq in the past three months, the UN said on Monday, highlighting concerns the country is slipping back into all-out war.

The latest violence comes as the country grapples with months of protests among the Sunni Arab minority, tensions along a swathe of territory in northern Iraq, and a protracted political deadlock that has blocked key legislation.

Analysts have warned that the stalemate and tensions could continue until a general election due next year.

On Monday, a series of attacks in restive areas north of Baghdad left 41 people dead as new figures released by the UN mission in Iraq showed a dramatic surge in violence in recent months.

Most of the victims died when a suicide bomber set off his explosives-rigged vest in the middle of a packed funeral for an Iraqi soldier being held in a husseiniyah, or Shi'ite religious hall.

The 22:00 (19:00 GMT) blast in the town of Muqdadiyah killed 23 people and wounded 27, a police colonel and a medic said.

In nearby Baquba, capital of Diyala province, another blast at a cafe in a Shi'ite neighbourhood killed 10 people and wounded 22.

Earlier in the day, eight former Sunni tribal militiamen were kidnapped from their homes north of Baghdad in pre-dawn raids by gunmen wearing military uniforms before being shot dead, assassination-style.

The men were all former fighters in the Sahwa, a collection of Sunni tribal militias that turned against Al-Qaeda and sided with the US military from late 2006 onwards, helping turn the tide of Iraq's bloody insurgency.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for Monday's violence, but Sunni militants linked to al-Qaeda frequently target the Sahwa, whom they regard as traitors, and Shiite Muslims, whom they see as apostates.

The UN released new figures on Monday which showed that 761 people were killed - most of them civilians - across the country in June, bringing the overall death toll for the past three months to 2 518.

Figures compiled by AFP, meanwhile, showed the death toll from April through June was more than twice that of the first three months of the year.



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