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Middle East

45 killed as car bomb explosions hit Iraq

Car bombs were detonated in busy commercial areas and a market in the capital

At least 45 people died in bomb attacks in busy markets and commercial areas of the capital Baghdad yesterday, police and medics have confirmed.

Two car bombs killed eight people in the predominantly Shi'ite Shaab neighbourhood of northern Baghdad. There were also explosions in the mainly Shi'ite districts of Abu Dsheer, Kamaliya, Tobchi and Shula.

Ali Sadoun, a policeman whose patrol was stationed in Shula said a blast hit near a crowded market full of people shopping. “When police and people gathered to help the wounded, a second bomb went off, tearing through bodies,” he said.

Sunni Muslims were believed to be the targets of blasts in Amriya and Abu Ghraib, on the city's western outskirts.

Outside Baghdad, a bomb blast near a funeral tent in the city of Baquba killed six people. Further south, a car bomb in Amara province killed four people and in the city of Basra and three blasts hit a hotel frequented by foreigners working in the oil industry, wounding three guards.

A sustained campaign of attacks since the start of the year has increased fears of wider conflict in a country where ethnic Kurds, Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims have yet to find a stable power-sharing compromise.

Insurgents including al-Qa'ida's Iraqi affiliate have been recruiting from the country's Sunni minority, which resents Shi'ite domination since the US led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein ten years ago in 2003.

Intercommunal tensions have been inflamed by the civil war in neighbouring Syria, which has increasingly been fought along sectarian lines, drawing in Shi'ite and Sunni fighters from Iraq and elsewhere to fight on opposite sides of the conflict.

Although violence is still well below the level it peaked at between 2006 and 2007, Sunni insurgents are striking on a daily basis, seeking to destabilise the Shi'ite-led government and provoke further confrontation.

On Monday, attacks targeting Shi'ites left at least 27 people dead. The number of people killed in militant attacks across Iraq in June reached 761.

Iraqi military forces are now better equipped and trained, but lack the comprehensive intelligence resources and air cover to track insurgents that they enjoyed before U.S. troops withdrew in December 2011.