Car bombs in Shi'ite areas of Iraq kill 34
By Kareem Raheem
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Five car bombs killed at least 34 people in Shi'ite areas of Iraq on Friday, police and medics said, as sectarian and ethnic tensions intensify ahead of provincial elections in April.
Two car bombs were detonated simultaneously at a bus stop near a Friday street market selling birds and other pets in the Shi'ite district of Kadhimiya in Baghdad, killing at least 16 people and wounding another 44, police and hospital sources said.
Footage of the scene showed dozens of buses and taxis destroyed by the explosion and blood on the ground.
Ongoing violence following the withdrawal of U.S. troops in late 2011 is stoking fears of a return to the sectarian strife that killed tens of thousands of Iraqis in 2006 and 2007.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, is facing mass protests by disenchanted Sunni Muslims and is at loggerheads with ethnic Kurds who run their northern region autonomously from Baghdad.
The prospect of the election is hardening the divisions as political leaders appeal to their constituencies with often hostile rhetoric that rejects compromise.
In the Shi'ite city of Hilla, 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad, 15 people were killed in two car bomb explosions at a vegetable market.
"I was shopping when I heard the first explosion. I was scared and tried to reach my car to run away but before I got in the second explosion went off," said Habib al-Murshidi who was at the scene. Continued...