BAGHDAD (AP) — A wave of explosions struck two Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 22 people and intensifying fears that insurgents are stepping up attacks after the U.S. troop withdrawal that was completed last month.
The attacks began with the explosion of a bomb attached to a motorcycle near a bus stop where day laborers gather to look for work in the Sadr city neighborhood. The blast killed nine people, police said.
"I was heading to my work when the strong blast took place. I saw thick black smoke coming from the area. Now, people have real fears that the cycle of violence might be revived in this country," said Tariq Annad, a 52-year-old government employee who lives nearby.
That attack was followed by the explosion of a roadside bomb nearby that killed another person. Police found a third bomb nearby and defused it.
Less than two hours later, two blasts struck the Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah in the north of the capital, killing 12 people.
Officials said the Kazimiyah blasts occurred almost simultaneously, with at least one caused by a car bomb.
Hospital officials confirmed the causalities, which included approximately 60 wounded.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
Iraqi leaders have warned of a resurgence of Sunni and Shiite militants and an increase in violence following the departure of U.S. troops.
The early morning blasts followed deadly attacks Wednesday that targeted the homes of police officers and a member of a government-allied militia. Those attacks, in the cities of Baqouba and Abu Ghraib outside Baghdad, killed four people, including two children, officials said.
The latest violence comes as Iraqi politicians remain deadlocked in a festering political crisis that threatens to re-ignite simmering sectarian tensions in the country.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, dominated by Iraq's majority Shiites, issued an arrest warrant for the country's top Sunni politician last month. The Sunni official, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, is currently holed up in Iraq's Kurdish north — effectively out of reach of state security forces.
Al-Maliki's main political rival, the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, is boycotting parliament sessions and Cabinet meetings to protest what they say are efforts by the government to consolidate power and marginalize them.