By SAMEER N. YACOUB, BAGHDAD (AP): Bombs in Iraq targeting a checkpoint run by government-allied Sunni militiamen, a Shiite tribal leader’s funeral and a soccer field killed at least 19 people on Friday, in the latest strikes by militants seeking to destabilize the country.
Iraq is in the midst of its deadliest and most sustained wave of violence since 2008, raising fears the nation is returning to the widespread sectarian-charged bloodshed that pushed it to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007. More than 2,000 people have been killed in bombings and other violent attacks since the start of April.
The deadliest attack, which killed at least 11, struck the militia checkpoint shortly before midday in the village of Zangoura, which is just south of the former insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, some 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, according to police.
The checkpoint was manned by members of the Sahwa, who are Sunni militiamen that joined forces with U.S. troops to fight al-Qaida during the Iraq War. They remain on the Shiite-led central government’s payroll for security forces, making them an occasional target for Sunni insurgents who consider them traitors.
One bomb, apparently planted by the side of the road, was the source of the initial blast. A second detonated as villagers rushed to help the victims of the first explosion, police said.
In the town of Dujail, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a tent set up to welcome mourners at the funeral of a local Shiite tribal leader.
Dujail mayor Naif al-Khazraji and Ali al-Haidari, a senior security official in the town, said the blast killed at least four and wounded four others. Al-Khazraji said those killed included a police captain who tried to shoot the bomber before he detonated his explosives.
Dujail is a predominantly Shiite town surrounded by mostly Sunni communities.
Shortly after unset, police said a bomb went off near a soccer field in the Shiite-majority town of Madain just south of Baghdad, killing 4 people and wounding 15 others.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Al-Qaida in Iraq frequently deploys car bombs and coordinated explosives, and often targets Shiites and security forces, including Sahwa members.
Police and hospital officials confirmed the casualties. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Earlier Friday, Iraqi officials raised the death toll from a series of bombings late Thursday that targeted soccer fans watching the Confederations Cup semifinal between Spain and Italy in cafes in and around Baghdad. They put the number of those killed at 36.
The deadliest attack, which killed 20 people, took place at a large cafe in the city of Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad. The assailants staggered the blasts, apparently so that the second one — a car bomb — would kill people rushing to help those hurt in the initial explosion. Rescue teams found several bodies only on Friday morning, police said.
Other attacks late Thursday struck cafes in Baghdad and the Shiite town of Jbala south of the capital.
Associated Press writers Adam Schreck and Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed.
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