BAGHDAD (AP) — Bombs exploded near two Sunni mosques Friday in Baghdad as a series of attacks nationwide killed 10 people, Iraqi officials said.
The deadliest attacks were bombings targeting worshippers as they were leaving weekly Muslim services in mainly Sunni areas in the Iraqi capital.
At least five people were killed and 21 wounded in a bombing targeting the Sunni al-Tawheed mosque in the southern Dora neighborhood, and two Sunni worshippers were killed and 11 others wounded in a similar attack in western Baghdad, police officials said.
There has been a spike in bombings of Sunni mosques in recent months amid rising political and sectarian tension in the country, although it is unclear who is to blame. While it is possible that Sunni insurgents could be to blame for the mosque attacks, hoping to stoke sectarian hatred, Shiite militias may also be behind the assaults.
Hours later, a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into an army checkpoint in the northern city of Mosul, killing two soldiers and wounding 11, police officials in the city said.
Gunmen also shot and killed police Col. Ghazi Ahmed after storming his house in the former insurgent stronghold of Hawija, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
Hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures for all attacks. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
More than 4,500 people have been killed since April, when violence began to surge after government security forces staged a deadly crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in the north. The minority sect has grown increasingly angry over what it sees as unfair treatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government and tensions have risen markedly since U.S. forces withdrew in 2011.
The growing unrest — marked by frequent coordinated car bombings and other attacks blamed mostly on al-Qaida's local branch targeting police, the military and often Shiite Muslim areas — is intensifying fears Iraq is heading back toward the widespread Sunni-Shiite sectarian killing that peaked in 2006 and 2007.
Much of the Sunni anger stems from allegations that vague anti-terrorism laws are being used to detain Sunnis arbitrarily. Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also held a demonstration Friday calling for the release of detainees from the movement, which was involved in the past violence before al-Sadr declared a cease-fire.