Deadly car bombings strike around Iraqi capital, Baghdad

Aftermath of car bomb in Shula district of Baghdad. 22 Jan 2013 One of the bombs exploded in Shula, a mostly Shia district of Baghdad

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Car bombings in and around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, have killed at least 17 people and wounded dozens more, police say.

In one attack, a car packed with explosives exploded near an army checkpoint in the town of Mahmoudiya, south of the capital, killing five.

Shortly after, a car bomb was detonated in the northern Baghdad suburb of Taji, claiming seven lives, officials said.

Another bomb in a mostly Shia district in north Baghdad killed at least five.

A series of suicide attacks across Iraq last week left more than 40 people dead.

No-one has admitted carrying out the latest attacks but Sunni insurgents have been blamed for recent violence in Iraq.

Analysis

Car and suicide bombs are now being seen in Iraq every few days. Co-ordinated attacks have been the norm across many cities including the capital, Baghdad. The targets have mostly been the Shia community and the violence is normally blamed on Sunni insurgents.

Last Wednesday was the deadliest day so far this year, with bombings killing 42 people.

The assassination of a senior Sunni lawmaker last week further provoked sectarian tension between Sunnis and Shias.

Sunni anger erupted in late December. Thousands of Sunnis have been holding mass protests in western Iraq against Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.

They are protesting against what they believe is discriminatory treatment by the government, which is led by a Shia coalition. The bombings and the political crisis have stoked fears among Iraqis of a return to civil war.

Two soldiers were among those killed in Mahmoudiya, 30km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, officials said. At least 14 other people were wounded.

The attack in Taji also happened near an army checkpoint.

'Pools of blood'

Teacher Nasseer Rahman witnessed the blast from a minibus that was queuing to pass through the checkpoint.

"As soon as the blast struck, we got off the minibus and ran to the site of the explosion," he said.

"We saw several cars on fire and pools of blood, and everybody was screaming for help."

More than 20 people were reported to have been injured in Taji.

The third car bomb exploded in a crowded market in the Shula district of Baghdad, police and hospital sources said, killing five and wounding 15.

Relations between Iraq's Sunni community and Shia-dominated government have become increasingly strained.

Although sectarian violence has decreased in Iraq since the height of the insurgency in 2006 and 2007, attacks are still common.

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