- (Photo: Reuters/Thaier al-Sudan)
A series of bombings targeting mostly at Shiite neighborhoods killed over 60 people and wounded hundreds across Iraq on Saturday amid Eid celebrations at the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, raising fears of a return to Shia-Sunni violence which brought the nation to the edge of civil war six years ago.
Saturday's deadliest attack occurred when a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into a residential area in the town of Tuz Khormato, about 130 miles north of Baghdad, killing eight people and wounding dozens, The Associated Press quoted Mayor Shalal Abdool as saying.
In the Baghdad's south-eastern suburbs of Jisr Diyala, another car bomb killed seven people near an outdoor market, police said.
Explosions that seemed coordinated, occurring within an hour of each other, targeted mostly Shiite areas in and around Baghdad, the central city of Karbala, the southern city of Nasiriyah and the northern city of Kirkuk.
Saturday recorded the highest single-day death toll since July 20, when a series of attacks killed 71 people.
Iraq has witnessed heightened sectarian violence following a deadly crackdown by government forces on a Sunni protest camp in April. The Sunni insurgency is reportedly led by Al Qaeda's Iraq affiliate.
At least 1,000 people were killed and over 2,300 injured across the country in July, according to the United Nations, which also said July recorded the highest monthly death toll in five years. Also, this year's Ramadan turned out to be the most violent since 2007.
Iraqi officials say insurgents are now targeting crowded areas to kill as many people as possible.
"We haven't seen such numbers in more than five years, when the blind rage of the sectarian strife that inflicted such deep wounds on this country was finally abating," the acting UN representative for Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin, said recently.
Around 75 percent of the Iraqi population is Arab. Over 95 percent of all Iraqis are Muslim – 65 percent Shia and 35 percent Sunni. Iraq's politics had largely been dominated by the Arab Sunnis until the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, following which the federal government of Iraq has been governed by Shiite parties led by the Islamic Dawa Party.
Christians and churches have also come under attack in Iraq, which had 300 churches and 1.4 million Christians in 2003. Now, only 57 churches and about half a million Christians remain with members of the minority fleeing attacks. Patriarch Louis Sako of the Chaldean Church told Mideast Christian News in March that the remaining 57 churches also continue to be targeted.