Baghdad: A dozen bombings and shooting attacks killed at least 32 people across Iraq on Thursday, underscoring the country's struggle to stamp out a stubborn insurgency more than seven months after the US military withdrew.
In the worst blast, at least 11 people were killed and more than 40 wounded when a car bomb exploded near an ice cream shop in Baghdad's Sadr City neighbourhood as Iraqis ended daily fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
No group claimed responsibility for Thursday's bombings, but a local al Qaeda affiliate and other Sunni Islamist groups have carried out at least one major assault a month since the last American troops left in December.
Al Qaeda's local wing, the Islamic State of Iraq, says it has begun a new offensive, and security experts say it has benefited from arms, cash and better morale thanks to the inflow of Islamist fighters into neighbouring Syria.
Security has been tightened in Baghdad ahead of the end of Ramadan next week, a period when analysts believe insurgents may attempt a major attack.
Hours before the Sadr city blast, a car bomb killed six civilians and wounded 28 in the mainly Shi'ite Baghdad district of Husainiya, police and hospital sources said. Just north of the capital, in Taji, another car bomb killed one and wounded nine more people.
Another six police and army soldiers were killed by gunmen who opened fire on their checkpoint from two speeding cars in the north of the capital, police said.
Four car bombs exploded in the city of Kirkuk, 250 km (150 miles) north of Baghdad, killing two people and wounded 18, police and hospital sources said.
Kirkuk, which sits on massive oil reserves, is at the heart of a dispute between Baghdad's central government and the country's autonomous Kurdistan region, both of which claim the city as part of their area of territorial control.
Overnight attacks on police checkpoints in the cities of Baquba and Falluja killed six policemen and wounded 13, police and hospital sources said.
More attacks and smaller bombings hit several other towns across Iraq.
Sunni Muslim insurgents have launched a string of attacks on Shi'ite targets to try to reignite the sectarian violence that killed tens of thousands of people in 2006-2007 and to undermine the country's Shi'ite-led government.
The Islamic State of Iraq insurgents have also said their suicide bombers attacked a counter-terrorism unit in Baghdad earlier in August to try to free prisoners held there. Police managed to fend off the attack and kill the attackers.
Iraq's security forces are generally seen as capable of containing the insurgents, but a crisis among Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions is fueling sectarian tensions and paralysing their power-sharing government.
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