Dubai: A car bomb in the centre of the Iraqi city of Najaf wounded 23 people on Sunday, security and medical officials said, a relatively rare attack in the Shiite holy city.

The 7am (0400 GMT) attack struck near a restaurant in Najaf’s old town, provincial health department spokesman Salim Naama said. Of the 23 wounded, four were seriously hurt, he said.

“The terrorists tried to put the car near the shrine, but security measures prevented them from getting there, so they blew it up in the old city,” provincial police chief Major General Abdul Karim Al Amiri told AFP, referring to a shrine to a principal figure of Shiite Islam that is located in Najaf. After several weeks of relative lull in attacks in Iraq, violence started again recently. Hundreds were killed and injured last month, and tens in the first days of this month, in what political experts believe is a result to many political and economic factors.

“Violence returned because there are political problems that resurfaced on the Iraqi scene,” said Yusri Azbawi, an expert in Iraqi affairs at the Cairo-based Al Ahram Strategic Studies Centre.

“The deteriorating economic situation and political, economic and administrative corruption inside Iraq is another cause for violence,” he told Gulf News.

“The political process in Iraq is not based on qualifications and law. It was rather built on sectarianism, so violence has returned to Iraq. And this affirms that some parties of the political process in Iraq are involved in the cycle of violence,” according to Azbawi. He added that the different religious sects in Iraq make the country more vulnerable to violence, especially as their differences are not just religious, but there are also differences in political backgrounds and practices.

At least 282 people were killed in June, according to press reports. However, according to official figures, the figure is 131. Thirty-eight people were killed in one day in June, most of them in a truck packed with explosives detonated in a market in the central city of Diwaniyah.

The series of attacks came amid preparation for a Shiite ceremony to commemorate the birth of a key figure for Shiites.

However, political analysts say, though the new Iraq was “built on sectarian basis”, attacks during religious events, where masses of people gather, aim to “have more impact”. said Azbawi.

On the other hand, an AP report quoted experts as saying “the extremists may have been emboldened by the government’s obvious distraction by feuding between Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and his political rivals among Sunnis, Kurds and some other Shiite politicians who complain he is amassing too much power.”

However, Iraqi writer and columnist Haleem Al Araji said the political struggle is “just one aspect of the ongoing, multi-faceted struggle in the country”.

“Violence in Iraq didn’t stop” in the first place, he told Gulf News.

“Secondly, the whole region is witnessing a high scale of violence,” he said, adding that Iraq is part of the region.

Asked about whether a political solution could scale down the bloody attacks, Al Araji said “corruption is not the reason behind what is going on. The struggle now is among big powers and all of these powers share the same characteristics of corruption. “

“The struggle is not between devils and angels. It is not between police and thieves. It is between everybody and everybody shares many features.”