Black day in Iraq

Baghdad - A wave of attacks, including a series of car bombs minutes apart in Baghdad, killed at least 30 people on Tuesday as violence spirals amid fears of a revival of Iraq's brutal sectarian conflict.

The unrest, which the UN says has left more than 2 500 dead from April through June, comes as Iraq grapples with a protracted political deadlock and months of protests by the Sunni Arab minority.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but most of the violence struck Shi'ite targets.

Sunni militants linked to al-Qaeda frequently target Shi'ite Muslims, whom they regard as apostates.

Tuesday's deadliest violence stuck the capital, with five car bombs ripping through markets, mostly in Shi'ite areas of Baghdad.

Vehicles rigged with explosives went off minutes apart at around 18:00 pm (15:00 GMT) in packed commercial areas of Shuala, Kamiliyah, Shaab and Abu Tcheer neighbourhoods, leaving a total of 20 dead and 61 wounded, according to security and medical officials.

Shootings elsewhere in the capital killed four others, while bombings in the restive northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul left one person dead and three wounded.

The violence comes a day after a series of attacks north of Baghdad left 45 people dead, including 23 killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of a funeral taking place inside a Shiite religious hall.

The UN has said more than 2 500 people were killed in a surge of violence from April through June.

Political stand-off

Figures compiled by AFP, meanwhile, showed the death toll from April through June was more than twice that of the first three months of the year.

Attacks in recent months have targeted a wide cross-section of Iraqi society - government targets and security forces were hit by car bombs, mosques were struck by suicide attackers, anti-Qaeda militiamen were shot dead, and Iraqis watching and playing football were killed by blasts.

The surge in violence comes amid a protracted political stand-off within Iraq's national unity government, with little in the way of landmark legislation passed since a 2010 parliamentary election.

And while political leaders have pledged to resolve the dispute, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki meeting his two main rivals last month, no tangible measures have been agreed.

Meanwhile, tensions have persisted in a swathe of territory in northern Iraq that Kurdish leaders want to incorporate into their autonomous three-province region over Baghdad's objections.

And months of protests among the Sunni Arab community have continued unabated.

Analysts and diplomats worry that the multi-faceted stand-offs are unlikely to see any long-term resolution at least until a general election due next year.

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