A wave of bombings targeting Shiites killed 72 people Thursday,deepening sectarian tensions that exploded just after the last American troops left Iraq in mid-December. More than 60 people were wounded.
The coordinated attacks bore the hallmarks of Sunni insurgents linked to al-Qaida though there was no immediate claim of responsibility by any group.
The bombings began early in the morning when explosions struck two Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad,killing at least 27 people. A few hours later,a suicide attack hit Shiite pilgrims heading to the holy Shiite city of Karbala,killing 45,said provincial official Quosay al-Abadi. The explosions took place near Nasiriyah,about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad. Hospital officials confirmed the causalities.
The blasts occurred in the run-up to Arbaeen,a Shiite holy day which sees Shiite pilgrims from across Iraq make their way to Karbala,south of Baghdad.
Baghdad military spokesman Maj Gen Qassim al-Moussawi said the aim of the attacks is to create turmoil among the Iraqi people. He said it was too early to say who was behind the bombings.
The new violence will only exacerbate Iraqs political crisis pitting politicians from the Shiite majority who dominate the government against the Sunni minority,which reigned supreme during Saddam Husseins reign.
Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Malikis government issued an arrest warrant for the countrys top Sunni politician last month. The Sunni official,Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi,is holed up in Iraqs semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north effectively out of reach of state security forces.
Fears have already been running high that the sectarian tensions could re-ignite Shiite-Sunni warfare that just a few years ago pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.
The attacks were the deadliest in Baghdad since December 22,when a series of bomb blasts killed 69 people in mostly Shiite neighborhoods.