Baghdad bombs kill 10 as Muslim sectarian violence rises in Iraq


Explosions in Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim neighbourhoods across Baghdad today killed at least 10 people, deepening fears of a return to levels of sectarian violence not seen since a civil war five years ago.

No group claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni Muslim Islamist insurgents and al-Qa'ida's Iraqi wing have increased their operations since the beginning of the year as part of a campaign to intensify inter-communal tensions.

A car bomb exploded in the mainly Sunni district of Binoog in north Baghdad, killing at least four people and wounding 12, while improvised roadside devices killed six people three other districts in the south and centre of the capital, police said.

A further seven people, including three policemen, were killed in clashes between gunmen and security forces in the northern city of Mosul, police said.

The surge in violence began in April when Iraqi forces raided a Sunni protest camp in the northern town of Hawija, angering Sunnis and triggering clashes that spread across the country.

More than 1,100 people have been killed since then, raising fears of a return to widescale Shi'ite on Sunni violence of the kind that killed thousands in 2006-2007.

Security officials blame Sunni Islamists and al-Qa'ida's local wing, the Islamic State of Iraq, for most of the violence, which includes even attacks on Sunni targets like mosques.

Growing violence parallels deepening tensions between Iraq's majority Shi'ite leaders and Sunni minority, many of whom believe their sect has been unfairly treated since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Syria's war, where Sunni rebels are fighting against President Bashar al-Assad, has further strained relations between Iraq's Shi'ite and Sunnis. Iraqi fighters from both sects are crossing the border to fight on opposing sides of Syria's conflict.

Thousands of Sunnis have protested weekly in the streets in western provinces since December, and the country's government split among Shi'ite, Sunni and ethnic Kurds is caught up in disputes over how to share power.