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Clashes of Iraqi forces, tribes spread

BAGHDAD — Clashes erupted Wednesday between the Iraqi Army and armed Sunni tribesmen who sealed off two central Iraqi towns, leaving 38 dead, just a day after a bloody raid involving soldiers and protesters set off fighting that killed 56 people.

Other violence Wednesday killed 13.

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The unrest is heightening Sunni-Shi’ite tensions and raising fears that the country could be headed toward a new round of all-out sectarian violence.

Wednesday’s fighting broke out after tribesmen blocked roads leading to the Sunni town of Qara Tappah, about 75 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Iraqi troops arrived to try to clear the city. Fierce clashes erupted, and helicopters fired at the gunmen. Police said 15 gunmen and seven soldiers were killed.

Also, Iraqi soldiers clashed with gunmen over the control of the Sunni town of Suleiman Beg in Salahuddin Province. Police and hospital officials said four soldiers and 12 others, including some gunmen, were killed.

Suleiman Beg is about 90 miles north of Baghdad.

In other violence, three gunmen were killed when they attacked a security checkpoint near the former Al Qaeda stronghold of Mosul, about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Later, a car bomb struck a police patrol north of Baghdad, killing a policeman and two civilians, according to police.

After sunset, a car bomb near a bus stop in Baghdad’s mostly Shi’ite neighborhood of Husseiniyah killed seven people and wounded 23 others.

Hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information to reporters.

The fighting came a day after security forces stormed a Sunni protest camp in the town of Hawija, sparking deadly clashes and a spate of other attacks, mostly targeting Sunni mosques, that killed at least 56 people.

The Tuesday raid in Hawija drew harsh condemnations from Sunni leaders and foreign diplomats, raising fears that Iraq is being pushed back toward sectarian fighting like the underlying conflicts in the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged Iraqi authorities to ensure that any investigation into the Hawija killings takes into account allegations that security forces used excessive force.

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