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Blasts kill 15 in Shiite areas of Baghdad



Baghdad: A series of bombings killed at least 15 people in Shiite-majority areas of Baghdad on Sunday, officials said, the latest attacks to hit Iraq as the country struggles with protests and a political crisis.

Three car bombs struck Sadr City in the north of the city, while one car bomb each exploded in Ameen, Al-Husseiniyah and Kamaliyah in the east, and a roadside bomb blew up in Karrada in central Baghdad, security and medical officials said.

The blasts left at least 15 people dead and around 80 wounded, the officials said.
These latest incidents in a spike in violence come as Iraq grapples with nearly two months of anti-government protests centred on Sunni-majority areas in north and west Iraq, and a festering political crisis in the capital.

The attacks bring the number of people killed in violence this month to at least 150, according to an AFP tally based on reports from security and medical officials nationwide.No group has yet claimed responsibility for Sunday's wave of attacks.

But Sunni militants linked to the Al-Qaeda franchise in Iraq often target the Shiite majority in a bid to erode confidence in the central government and push the country back towards the bloody sectarian conflict of 2006-2007.The Baghdad bombings follow a series of attacks on Saturday that killed five people, including the head of Iraq's intelligence academy.

Two suicide bombers killed Brigadier General Aouni Ali and two of his guards, and more bombings resulted in the deaths of a judge and an army lieutenant.Members of the security forces and judicial officials are also often targeted by militants in Iraq.

Sunday's attacks come amid weeks of rallies in Sunni-majority areas calling for the ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite.The demonstrations were initially sparked in December by the arrest of several guards of Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi, a leading Sunni.

The longest-running protests have blocked off a key trade route linking Baghdad to both Jordan and Syria.

As the demonstrations have since expanded markedly, the government has sought to curtail them by saying it has released thousands of detainees and by raising the salaries of Sunni militiamen battling Al-Qaeda extremists.It has also restricted movements in major cities on Fridays, when the largest protests are staged.

Maliki, meanwhile, has been tussling with a political crisis that has pitted him against many of his government partners barely two months before provincial elections, the country's first since March 2010 parliamentary polls.

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