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Car bombings kill 36 as Iraq protests escalate

BAGHDAD — Car bombs struck two outdoor markets and a group of taxi vans in Shi’ite areas across Iraq on Friday, killing at least 36 people and wounding nearly 100 in the bloodiest day in more than two months, as minority Sunnis staged large antigovernment protests.

Sunni protesters have rejected calls to violence by an Al Qaeda-linked group, but there is concern that Sunni insurgents could step up attacks ahead of the April 20 provincial elections — the first countrywide vote since the US troop withdrawal a year ago.

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Friday’s bombings targeted particularly crowded areas.

Also on Friday, tens of thousands of Sunni protesters rallied in five major cities against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite accused of monopolizing power. Sunnis also complain of official discrimination.

In the city of Samarra, rally speaker Sheik Mohammed Jumaa sent a warning to the prime minister. ‘‘Stop tyranny and oppression,’’ he said.

‘‘We want our rights. You will witness what other tyrants have witnessed before you.’’

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