BAGHDAD — Attacks around Baghdad and north Iraq left 31 people dead on Wednesday, including 18 members of a Shiite family killed by militants, the latest in a nationwide surge of violence.
The unrest came a day after a wave of bombings targeting Shiites in Baghdad and shootings and bombings elsewhere killed 54 people, further raising fears Iraq is slipping back into the all-out sectarian bloodshed that left tens of thousands dead in 2006 and 2007.
Wednesday's violence struck towns on the outskirts of Baghdad as well as predominantly Sunni cities in the north of the country, with the deadliest attack occurring south of the capital.
Shortly after midnight, militants bombed adjacent houses belonging to Shiite Muslim brothers in the town of Latifiyah, which lies about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Baghdad.
A total of 18 people were killed, including five women and six children, and a dozen others were wounded, according to an army officer and a doctor at a nearby hospital.
Latifiyah lies within a confessionally-mixed region known as the "Triangle of Death," so named for the brutal violence that plagued the area during the peak of Iraq's sectarian war in 2006 and 2007.
Last week, another attack on a Shiite family in the town killed at least five people.
No group claimed responsibility for the latest violence, but Sunni militants linked to Al-Qaida frequently carry out attacks against Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority who they regard as apostates.
Separate attacks in Besmaya and Tarmiyah, also on Baghdad's outskirts, killed seven people, including five soldiers.
Bombings in two Sunni-majority cities north of the capital killed six people, including five policemen who died in a suicide car bombing against a police station in Mosul, one of Iraq's most restive cities.
The latest bloodshed came as Baghdad was still reeling from a wave of car bombs targeting Shiite neighborhoods the previous evening that killed 43 people, while unrest elsewhere left 11 others dead.
Among the attacks was a car bombing in the central commercial district of Karrada where four storefronts were badly damaged, with workers still picking up the pieces from the evening's violence.
At one restaurant, where windows were completely shattered by the blast, three men were consoling each other as they tried to clean up the aftermath of the attack.
"Please, we have cried enough," one of them told another, before himself breaking into tears, while one of the men held up the clothes of a friend who died in the attack and shouted, "These are his clothes — what should I do with them?"
The bombings were the latest in a series of attacks timed to coincide with people visiting cafes and other public areas during the evening.
In the past, coordinated violence has typically been confined to the morning rush-hour, when the capital is normally in gridlock.
Attacks have killed more than 3,900 people since the start of the year, according to an AFP tally.
Iraqi officials have trumpeted wide-ranging operations targeting militants in which hundreds of alleged fighters have been captured and dozens killed.
But a long-running political deadlock combined with frustrations in Iraq's Sunni Arab minority and concerns neighboring Syria's civil war is spilling over into Iraq have fueled warnings that violence is unlikely to abate.
© AFP 2014