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Conflict

Iraq sees a wave of deadly bomb attacks

A series of attacks in and around Baghdad and in northern Iraq have killed up to 17 people and wounded dozens of others. The fresh violence came amid a worsening political crisis.

According to security and medical officials, explosions went off in and around the capital Baghdad targeting an army checkpoint, a military base in Taji north of the capital, as well as in Shula, a mainly Shiite Baghdad neighborhood.

Up to 17 people are believed to have been killed and dozens more wounded in several car bomb attacks. No one has so far claimed responsibility.

There have also been reports of attacks in the town of Mahmudiyah south of Baghdad, which lies in a region with a mixed Sunni and Shiite population, which has often been the scene of sectarian violence in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion of the country.

The number of attacks in Iraq has fallen since the peak of insurgency in Iraq from 2005-2008, but analysts suspect that the recent spate of attacks were intended to destabilize the government.

It comes following four weeks of anti-government protests in areas with a Sunni majority (like the one pictured above showing protests in Falluja on January 16) and just days after several attacks claimed more than 80 lives last week. Those attacks were claimed by the group called "Islamic State of Iraq," which is part of the al Qaeda network.

A political crisis has pitted Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is a Shiite, against several of his former political partners in his unity government, who are supporting the Sunni anti-government rallies and have called for Maliki to step down.

Weeks of anti-government rallies in Sunni Arab majority areas, supported by parties that are members of Maliki's unity cabinet, have meanwhile increasingly called for the premier to quit.

Maliki's central government is also engaged in a dispute with the autonomous Kurdistan region over control of oil fields.

The violence come just three months before provincial elections, which will be Iraq's first polls in three years and a test for the different parties in Maliki's government.

rg/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters)