BAGHDAD — Bombs ripped through Sunni areas in Baghdad and surrounding areas Friday, killing at least 76 people in the deadliest day in Iraq in more than eight months. The major increase in sectarian bloodshed heightened fears the country could again be veering toward civil war.
The attacks followed two days of bombings targeting Shi’ites, including bus stops and outdoor markets, with a total of 130 people killed since Wednesday.
Scenes of bodies sprawled across a street outside a mosque and mourners killed during a funeral procession were reminiscent of some of the worst days of retaliatory warfare between the Islamic sects that peaked in 2006-2007 as US forces battled extremists on both sides.
Tensions have been intensifying since Sunnis began protesting what they say is mistreatment at the hands of the Shi’ite-led government, including random detentions and neglect. The protests, which began in December, have largely been peaceful, but the number of attacks rose sharply after a deadly security crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq on April 23.
Majority Shi’ites control the levers of power in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Wishing to rebuild the nation rather than revert to open warfare, they have largely restrained their militias in the past five years or so as Sunni extremist groups such as Al Qaeda have frequently targeted them with large-scale attacks.
No one claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks, but the fact they occurred in mainly Sunni areas raised suspicion that Shi’ite militants were involved. The bombs also were largely planted in the areas, as opposed to the car bombings and suicide attacks that Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni insurgents are known to use.
Talal al-Zobaie, a Sunni lawmaker, called on politicians across the religious and ethnic spectrum to put aside their differences and focus on protecting the nation.
‘‘The terrorist attacks on Sunni areas today and on Shi’ite areas in the past two days are an indication that some groups and regional countries are working hard to reignite the sectarian war in Iraq,’’ he said. ‘‘The government should admit that it has failed to secure the country and the people, and all security commanders should be replaced by efficient people who can really confront terrorism. Sectarianism that has bred armies of widows and orphans in the past is now trying to make a comeback in this country, and everybody should be aware of this.’’
The areas hit Friday were all former Sunni insurgent strongholds that saw some of the fiercest fighting of the US-led war as sectarian rivalries nearly tore the country apart.
The deadliest blast struck worshipers as they were leaving the main Sunni mosque in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Another explosion went off shortly afterward as people gathered to help the wounded, leaving 41 dead and 56 wounded, according to police and hospital officials.
Grocery store owner Hassan Alwan was among the worshipers who attended Friday prayers in al-Sariya mosque. He said he was getting ready to leave when he heard the explosion, followed by another a few minutes later.
‘‘We rushed into the street and saw people who were killed and wounded, and other worshipers asking for help,’’ he said. ‘‘I do not know where the country is headed amid these attacks against both Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq.’’
Baqouba was the site of some of the fiercest fighting between US forces and insurgents. Al Qaeda in Iraq essentially controlled the area for years, defying numerous US offensives aimed at restoring control. It also is the capital of Diyala Province, a religiously mixed area that saw some of the worst atrocities as Shi’ite militias battled Sunni insurgents for control.
A roadside bomb exploded later Friday during a Sunni funeral procession in Madain, about 12 miles south of Baghdad, killing eight mourners and wounding 11, police said. Two medical officials confirmed the casualties.
Another blast struck a cafe in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding nine, according to police and hospital officials.
In Baghdad, a bomb exploded near a shopping center during the evening rush hour in the mainly Sunni neighborhood of Amariyah, killing 21 people and wounding 32.