Iraq attacks kill more than 50

The attacks stoke fears of an increase in sectarian violence amid current political crisis.

BAGHDAD – More than 50 people have been killed in bomb attacks in southern Iraq and in the capital Baghdad, according to BBC News. Provincial officials said at least 30 Shia pilgrims died in a suicide attack near the city of Nasiriya. Earlier, Iraq’s Interior Ministry said at least 24 people were killed in blasts in Shia areas of Baghdad.

The attacks come amid a rise in sectarian tensions after the last US combat troops withdrew in December. The head of the provincial council in Nasiriya, Qusay al-Abadi, said at least 30 pilgrims were killed and more than 70 injured in the attack near Nasiriya. The pilgrims were walking to the holy city of Karbala.

The Baghdad attacks occurred during the city’s rush hour and the Interior Ministry says they targeted gatherings in of civilians in the Sadr City and Kadhimiya areas and injured at least 66 other people. Unnamed officials said between 14 and 15 people had been killed when two car bombs exploded simultaneously in Kadhimiya at around 09:00 (06:00 GMT). Twelve people had earlier been killed when two bombs were detonated in Sadr City.

The attacks intensified fears of an increase in sectarian violence in the midst of the political crisis in the country, according to CNN. Iraqis have been concerned about an increase in Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence after the U.S. military withdrawal from the country. Sectarian violence raged during the Iraq war last decade and became a integral part of the conflict.

Sunnis in Iraq have been feeling marginalized by the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is a Shiite. That alienation and anger intensified after he ordered the arrest last month of Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who was charged with ordering bombings and assassinations. Iraq is a majority Shiite nation. During the Saddam Hussein era, Sunnis had more political clout.

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