Car bombs kill 18 Shiite worshipers in Iraq
Blast also reported in southern Kirkuk
Sectarian violence flared anew Friday, as bombers struck several Shiite mosques in Iraq, killing at least 18 worshipers and wounding scores more, police said.
Four of the attacks -- all of them car bombs -- targeted four mosques in Baghdad, killing at least 14 people and wounding 25 others.
According to Baghdad police:
-- One of the blasts struck worshipers leaving the al-Mustafa Mosque in the al-Jihad neighborhood of southwestern Baghdad, killing at least three people and wounding eight.
-- In the Zafaraniya neighborhood of southeastern Baghdad, five people were killed and seven wounded when a car bomb exploded outside the al-Sadreen Shiite Mosque.
-- In the al-Binook neighborhood, also in southeastern Baghdad, four people were killed and five were wounded when a car bomb exploded outside a Shiite mosque as worshipers were departing.
-- And in the al-Qahira neighborhood of northeastern Baghdad, two people were killed and five wounded when a car bomb detonated outside the Ahal al-Bayt Shiite Mosque.
About 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Baghdad, in southern Kirkuk, police said that four people were killed and 60 wounded by a car bomb followed by a suicide blast that targeted a Shiite mosque. Most of the casualties were Shiite worshipers, police told CNN.
The violence on Friday, when Muslims usually attend sermons inside mosques across the country, is just the latest in a series of such attacks.
Last week, an al Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for a chain of 24 bombings and two gun attacks in Iraq that killed 61 people.
A statement attributed to the Islamic State of Iraq appeared on extremist websites, calling the attacks retaliation against Shiite members in government.
Last week's attacks -- 17 car bombs, seven roadside bombs and two shootings -- ripped mostly through Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad, but also struck Sunni communities in other towns. At least 200 people were wounded.
Though Iraq has grown safer in the last six years, sectarian violence and instability still grip the country 10 years after the start of the U.S.-led war.
The violence in Iraq has killed more than 134,000 Iraqis and more than 4,800 U.S. and other coalition service members. It has cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
"It remains entrenched and pervasive, with a clear beginning but no foreseeable end, and very much a part of the present in Iraq," Iraq Body Count, a UK-based group that tracks war deaths, said last week.
"In major regions of the country, armed violence continues to exact a remorseless toll on human life, young and old, male and female, across society."
Change can be seen in the nation, where a robust form of democracy has taken hold. Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and others often work together; there is more political, economic and social stability. Coalition forces that ousted Saddam Hussein's government have departed.
However, the recent attacks in Shiite areas have spread fear among Iraqis that sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shiites may again ravage the country.
Sunnis had more political clout during Hussein's reign. The Shiites and the Kurds, the other two main groups, were second-class citizens. Since Hussein was toppled, the tables have turned. Shiites -- the largest religious group in the country -- predominate in government. The Kurdish semiautonomous region in the north, and the Kurds themselves, have more clout.
Today, many Sunnis feel they've been politically marginalized. They demand that the Shiite-led government stop what they call negative treatment of Iraq's Sunni community.