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Iraq bombings kill 65, bring fears of sectarian strife

Panic was widespread in the capital on Wednesday as the attacks went on, hitting markets, restaurants and a bus stop.

Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press

Panic was widespread in the capital on Wednesday as the attacks went on, hitting markets, restaurants and a bus stop.

BAGHDAD — In the span of roughly an hour, as the streets were choked with morning commuters and shoppers, more than a dozen explosions struck Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 65 people and wounding far more, officials said. It was the latest in a series of terrorist attacks that have engulfed Iraq.

The explosions, which struck mainly Shi’ite neighborhoods, follow a series of beheadings in recent days, some of which were claimed by Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq.

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They have raised new fears that Iraq, whose population is mainly Shi’ite, is returning to the bloody sectarian violence that gripped the country in 2006 and 2007, nearly tearing it apart.

In a scene reminiscent of those times, just as Baghdad was gripped by panic on Wednesday morning, gunmen stormed the home of a Shi’ite family in the Sunni-dominated town of Latifiya, south of Baghdad, and killed seven people, including four children, with knives.

Later, some local media reports said the bodies of the family members had been decapitated.

In the evening, two more car bombs struck in Amel, a Shi’ite-dominated district, killing six people.

Meanwhile, as the explosions began ringing out across Baghdad in the morning, familiar scenes of panic and fear played out on the streets.

In one neighborhood, a suspicious car was spotted near a parking lot.

“Car bomb!” yelled a traffic policeman.

Pedestrians began panicking and running, not knowing which direction to go. Cars turned around, clogging the streets, as drivers rolled down their windows to prevent shattered glass from entering their vehicles.

After about four minutes the suspicious car exploded, sending a plume of black smoke skyward, killing seven people and injuring more than a dozen others, according to a security official.

The relentless series of coordinated attacks, which involved car bombs and suicide attackers, hit public markets, restaurants, and a bus stop.

In Baghdad alone, at least 65 people were killed, officials said.

Nationwide, the carnage left more than 80 people dead from attacks on soldiers and civilians in Babel, Kirkuk, and Mosul.

For days before the strikes, the local news media published warnings by the government that a new wave of attacks was imminent, and security forces set up new checkpoints and other security measures.

But in the end, the security forces were unable to stop the attacks, further undermining the confidence Iraqis have in the government to protect them.

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