BAGHDAD (AP) — A car bomb killed at least eight people outside the northern city of Mosul on Monday, Iraq officials said, in the latest in a series of attacks to target the country's Shiites since the U.S. withdrawal last month.
Violence has surged across Iraq since the last American troops left the country, with a string of bombings that has left at least 150 people dead since the beginning of the year. Most of the attacks appear to be aimed at Iraq's Shiite majority, suggesting Sunni insurgents are seeking to undermine the Shiite-dominated government.
Monday's blast struck a Shiite district outside of Mosul, a predominantly Sunni city some 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, a police official said.
An official at Mosul's Al-Jomhouri hospital confirmed the death toll, and said at least six people were wounded in the attack.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
A member of the city's local council, Qusai Abbas, said the car bomb blew up near a group of houses where members of the Shebek minority have settled since being driven out of Mosul by Sunni militants during fierce sectarian fighting a few years ago.
The Shebeks are ethnic Turkomen and Shiite Muslims who mostly live in villages east of Mosul, the provincial capital of the ethnically mixed Ninevah province that is predominantly Sunni Muslim.
Mosul has been a hub for al-Qaida in Iraq in past years. Other Sunni insurgent groups have battled Kurdish militias for control over the city, Iraq's third largest, killing thousands of civilians in suicide bombings and shootings.
Hundreds of Christians, Yazeedis and members of other minority groups have been driven out Mosul in recent years as militants used violence and intimidation to tip the ethnic and religious balance into their group's favor.
Iraq is also facing a political crisis after the Shiite-dominated government charged Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with running death squads, issuing an arrest warrant against him just as the last U.S. soldiers crossed into neighboring Kuwait.
The sectarian crisis in the government and the spike in attacks — such as a bombing Saturday that killed more than 50 Shiite pilgrims and an assault Sunday on government buildings in western Anbar province that killed seven — has raised concerns Iraq could return to the sort of sectarian bloodshed that killed tens of thousands of civilians after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and brought the country to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007.
Associated Press writer Barbara Surk contributed to this report.