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Iraq

Bomb blasts rip through Sunni mosque in Iraq

Several bomb attacks inside a Sunni mosque in Iraq have killed at least 18 people. The past several months have been the deadliest in the country since 2008, with more than 4,000 killed since April, according to the UN.

Several bombs exploded inside a Sunni mosque packed with worshippers in the city of Samarra, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of the capital Baghdad Friday. The attacks killed at least 18 people and wounded more than 20 others.

The city's deputy head of the municipal council, Mizhar Fleih, said bombs were placed inside two of the Musaab Bin Omair mosque's air-conditioning units. The explosions went off around midday, during Friday prayers. Samarra is a largely Sunni Muslim city.

"We are worried that the attacks on Sunni and Shiite mosques aim at reigniting the sectarian strife in this country," Fleih said.

A similar attack on a Sunni mosque in the northeast of Baghdad killed 33 worshippers last week.

Militants have carried out numerous attacks on both Sunni and Shiite mosques this year raising fears the country is slipping back toward the widespread bloodshed and sectarian violence that marked the years following the 2003 US-led invasion.

The past several months have been the deadliest in Iraq since 2008. More than 4,000 people have been killed since the start of April, according to UN figures.

The UN's deputy special representative for Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin, expressed "extreme concern" this week about the growing sectarian-based displacement of Sunnis and other minorities.

"The use of violence and intimidation against communities by illegal armed groups forcing them to flee their homes is unacceptable and a clear violation of basic human rights," Busztin said.

hc/dr (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)