Baghdad: Nine young football players and fans were killed when a bomb exploded near a pitch in southern Iraq, health officials said, in the latest of a wave of attacks raising fears of a return to widespread sectarian violence.
The explosion in a predominantly Shiite area of the city of Hilla came the same day as police and hospital sources said a roadside bomb killed five people near a pet shop popular with young people in a Sunni area of the northern city of Baqouba.
More than 140 people have been killed in June in bombings targeting mainly Shiites and shrines as political and sectarian tensions remain high.
Iraq’s Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions have been locked in a series of political spats since US troops withdrew in December, with opponents to Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki accusing him of trying to consolidate power at their expense.
In Hilla, the bomb attached to a minibus exploded near a field where two youth teams had just finished a game, said police and hospital sources.
The dead and injured football players and fans were aged between 15 and 20, said Abdul Amir Al Jibouri, a media manager for the health department in Babil province. More than 30 others were injured, he added.
Hilla is 100km south of Baghdad while Baqouba is 65km northeast of capital.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s interior ministry has given dozens of media outlets 45 days to comply with Communications and Media Commission (CMC) regulations over licences, or they will face “legal procedures”.
“The ministry calls on the officials of these institutions to [work with] the Communications and Media Commission during a period of 45 days from the date of issuing this statement,” the interior ministry said in a statement.
“The ministry is eager for these institutions to continue their work legally and in full freedom,” it said, adding that after the 45 days, “legal procedures will be applied, according to what the commission orders”.
Salem Mashkur, a member of the board of trustees of the CMC, the independent authority charged with regulating media organisations in Iraq, said on Monday that it had decided to restrict 39 media outlets including the BBC and Voice of America over problems with licences.