BAGHDAD (AP) — Car bombs hit Shiite neighborhoods of the Iraqi capital for the second day in a row on Thursday, part of a series of attacks across the country that left 21 people dead and raised concerns over a return to sectarian bloodshed.
Baghdad police said the first blast hit a bus and taxi stop during the morning rush hour in the city's eastern Sadr City neighborhood. Nine people were killed, including a 7-year old child, and 16 were wounded in that attack, two officers said.
Another car bomb hit a small market at a taxi stop in Baghdad's eastern suburb of Kamaliya, killing three civilians and wounding 14 others there, the officers said.
And in the capital's northern Chikok district, two civilians were killed and 10 were wounded when a car bomb missed a police patrol that was passing through, two other police officers said.
In the northern city of Mosul, a suicide attacker rammed his car into an army check point, killing two soldiers and wounding three others, another police officer said. The attack came just after a car bombing in another area of Mosul wounded two civilians, he said. Mosul is located 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad.
In Baghdad's southwestern neighborhood of Baiyaa, drive-by gunmen shot and killed a brother of a Sunni lawmaker and wounded two of his guards, two police officials said.
Shortly after sunset, a suicide bomber set off his explosive belt near a Shiite mosque in the ethnically-mixed city of Kirkuk after he was prevented by guards from entering. Police said four people were killed and 42 were wounded in the attack that was apparently targeting a funeral inside the mosque.
Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures for all the attacks. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The spike in violence comes amid growing tensions between the Shiite-led government and Iraq's Sunni minority over what they consider second-class treatment. A bloody government crackdown on militants last month in a protest camp in the country's north fueled the latest tensions.
Iraq's embattled Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday blamed sectarian tensions for the latest attacks.
"We have to know that today's bloodshed is the result of sectarian hatred and also the result of a stirring up of these sectarian tensions," al-Maliki said during a government-organized conference about atrocities committed under dictator Saddam Hussein.
Incitement could be coming from inside or outside the country, al-Maliki added.
Wednesday's attacks left 33 dead. No one has claimed responsibility, but car and suicide bombings are a hallmark of al-Qaida's Iraq branch.
The spike in attacks, after a general decrease in violence, has raised fears of a return to the sectarian bloodshed that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006-2007. Shiite militias have so far been largely restrained in their reactions to such bombings.