Two car bombs exploded in different parts of the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk on Monday, killing at least 12 people and wounding 37, police said.
The first explosion occurred near a market in southern Kirkuk, which has an Arab majority, while the second took place in the center of the city, targeting a residential area with a mixed Kurdish and Turkomen population.
Kirkuk, located 180 miles north of Baghdad, has seen a recent rise in violence that many blame on insurgents who have fled a security crackdown in Baghdad. The city is also the center of an ethnic power struggle as Kurds are seeking to incorporate it into their autonomous zone.
Earlier in the day, a bomb exploded during prayers at a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, killing at least eight worshippers and wounding nearly three dozen on the eve of the war’s fourth anniversary, police said.
The attack occurred about 12:30 p.m., shattering windows and damaging a wall of the small green-domed mosque that is situated among several shops in the central Shorja market area.
Police initially blamed it on a suicide bomber trying to enter the building but later said the blast was caused by a bomb placed in the corner behind the preacher’s podium, leaving a crater in the floor.
Attacks 'even during prayers'
Gheith Jassim, the 32-year-old owner of a textile shop near the mosque said he rushed to the site of the blast in a panic because he feared his brother had planned to attend prayers there. His brother had missed the prayers, but Jassim found a scene of carnage.
“When I arrived, I saw several wounded people being taken by ambulances and they were screaming from fear and injuries. There were bloodstains on the wall and some carpets were burned,” he said in a telephone interview.
Jassim said some worshippers at the scene were cursing Sunni extremists.
“We are not saved from them even during prayers,” he said. “They want to ignite Sunni-Shiite strife.”
Iraqi authorities have imposed strict security in the area to prevent car bombings as part of the Baghdad security crackdown aimed at stopping the sectarian violence that has devastated the capital. While the capital has seen a decline in execution-style killings and random shootings during the operation, bombings have continued.
Last month, a massive truck bomb in the busy Shorja market area killed 137 people.