Civilians inspect the aftermath of a car bomb explosion in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, May 25, 2014. A car bomb targeting a liquor store on Saturday in the country's north has killed at least a dozen civilians, police said. Image Credit: AP

Baghdad A car bomb exploded outside a liquor store in northern Iraq overnight, killing at least 12 civilians, a senior police officer said Sunday.

The blast struck the northern oil-rich and ethnically-mixed city of Kirkuk, deputy police chief Maj. Gen. Torhan Abdul Rahman Youssef said. Youssef said that the blast in the western Al Wasiti neighborhood wounded 29. Kirkuk is located 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad. Militants often target night clubs, liquor stores and brothels. They want to impose a strict interpretation of Islam in Iraq.

The attack comes as Iraq’s Shiite-led government is struggling to contain a surge in sectarian violence unseen since the country was pushed to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007 after the US-led invasion that toppled dictator Sadaam Hussein. According to the United Nations, 8,868 people were killed in Iraq last year.

The uptick in violence also comes as the country’s political rivals are trying to form a new government after parliamentary elections April 30. Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s bloc emerged as the biggest winner, securing 92 seats in the 328-member parliament, but it failed to gain the majority needed to govern alone.