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Bombs at markets, police kill 24 people in Iraq

BAGHDAD — Back-to-back bombs ripped through an outdoor market northeast of Baghdad on Tuesday, the deadliest in separate attacks that officials said killed 24 people on the eve of the first nationwide elections since the 2011 withdrawal of US forces.

The attacks are an apparent effort by militants to discourage Iraqi voters from going to the polls Wednesday.

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Tuesday’s attack took place in the town of Sadiyah, 90 miles northeast of Baghdad, a police officer said.

One of the bombs was placed in the middle of the town’s main vegetable and meat market, he said, while the second was put near one of the exits — presumably trying to strike people fleeing from the first blast, a tactic widely used by insurgents to inflict as many casualties as possible. Officials said 17 people were killed, including four women and two children, and 42 people were wounded.

Before sunset, a bomb hit a police patrol in Baghdad’s southwestern suburbs of Radwaniyah, killing two police officers and wounding four others, a police officer said. Also, a bomb explosion at a small market killed two people and wounded eight others in Baghdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib, he added.

Later on, police said two mortar shells landed on a residential area in Sabaa al-Bour, just north of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding eight.

And a mortar shell landed on a residential area in Baghdad’s western Sunni district of Ghazaliyah, killing one person and wounding 11 others, said police.

Two medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, which bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda-inspired Sunni militants seeking to undermine the Shi’ite-led government’s efforts to maintain security across the country ahead of Wednesday’s polling.

Violence has surged in Iraq after a few years relative calm. According to the United Nations, 8,868 people were killed in Iraq last year — the country’s highest death toll since a peak of sectarian bloodletting in 2007. Insurgents have intensified attacks in the run-up to the elections, including a series of bombings on Friday that targeted an election rally for a militant Shi’ite group, killing at least 33 people.

Earlier Tuesday, the Al Qaeda splinter group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for deadly attacks across Iraq the day before, including a suicide bombing in a Kurdish town that killed at least 25 people.

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