BAGHDAD:A spate of bombings targeting Shiite Muslims across Iraq killed 12 people on Thursday, the latest in a spike in unrest amid weeks of anti-government protests and a political crisis engulfing the country. The attacks marked the third consecutive day of violence which has claimed 71 lives overall, including that of a Sunni Iraqi MP killed by a suicide bomber and 33 others who died in twin car bombs in an ethnically-mixed northern city. It comes as Iraq grapples with a long-running political dispute, with Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki facing protests hardening opposition against his rule and calls from many of his erstwhile government partners for his ouster. No group has claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, but Sunni militants often launch waves of violence in a bid to destabilise the government and push Iraq back towards the sectarian violence that blighted it from 2005 to 2008. The deadliest of Thursday’s blasts took place in Dujail, 60 kilometres north of Baghdad, where two car bombs minutes apart killed seven people and wounded 32 others, officials said. The blasts struck outside a government building and a Shiite mosque. Five others were killed and 15 wounded by a car bomb near a football stadium on the outskirts of the predominantly Shiite city of Hilla, south of Baghdad.
Bombings also struck Hawija and Karbala.
There were no casualties in Hawija but 17 people were wounded in Karbala, a Shiite shrine city south of the capital, including eight who officials said were Pakistani Shiite pilgrims.
The Pakistani embassy did not respond to requests from AFP for confirmation.
The violence comes a day after 49 people were killed in a wave of attacks in Baghdad and north of the capital, Iraq’s deadliest day since November 29. Officials raised the toll on Thursday after seven more people died from twin car bombs in Kirkuk city.
On Tuesday, a suicide attacker killed a Sunni Iraqi MP, Ayfan Al Essawi, west of Baghdad. Hundreds of mourners attended Essawi’s funeral outside the mostly Sunni town of Fallujah on Wednesday.
The lawmaker was a former leader of the Sahwa, a collection of Sunni tribal militias that turned against Al-Qaida and sided with the US military from late 2006, helping to turn the tide of Iraq’s bloody insurgency.
Sahwa fighters are frequently targeted for attacks by Sunni militants who view them as traitors.
The violence comes amid a political crisis that has pitted Al Maliki against several of his ministers just months ahead of key provincial elections.
Weeks of anti-government demonstrations in Sunni Arab majority areas, supported by several parties that are members of Al Maliki’s unity cabinet, have hardened opposition against the premier, a Shiite.
Attacks in Iraq are down from their peak in 2006-2007, but they are still common across the country.