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Dozens killed in Iraq bomb blasts Thursday

Multiple bomb explosions across the country also injured over 100 people.

By Kareem RaheemReuters / April 19, 2012

Residents inspect the site of a bomb attack in Baquba, 40 miles north of Baghdad, April 19. More than 20 bombs hit cities and towns across Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 36 and wounding almost 150, police and hospital sources said.

Helmiy al-Azawi/REUTERS

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Baghdad

More than 20 bombs hit cities and towns across Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 36 and wounding almost 150, police and hospital sources said, raising fears of sectarian strife in a country whose authorities are keen to show they can now maintain security.

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In Baghdad, three car bombs, two roadside bombs and one suicide car bomb hit mainly Shi'ite areas, killing 15 people and wounding 61, the sources said.

Two car bombs and three roadside bombs aimed at police and army patrols in the northern oil city of Kirkuk killed eight people and wounded 26, police and hospital sources said.

"I was trying to stop traffic to let a police patrol pass ...A car bomb exploded, I fell on the ground and police took me to the hospital," a policeman wounded in the face and chest told Reuters as doctors tended him. He declined to be named.

It was Iraq's bloodiest day since Al Qaeda's affiliate in the country, the Islamic State of Iraq group, killed at least 52 people with a series of 30 blasts on March 20.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for Thursday's attacks.

Colonel Dhiya al-Wakeel, a spokesman for the Baghdad operations command, said the attacks were an attempt to convince the Iraqi people that the country was still insecure.

"Our forces are capable of confronting such challenges and this will not affect the improvement in the security situation or our security plans," Wakeel told the State-owned, Iraqiya TV.

Heightened tension between Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds in the coalition government since U.S. troops withdrew in December has raised fears of a return to sectarian violence of the kind that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war a few years ago.

The country is less violent than at the height of that conflict in 2006-07, but bombings and killings still happen daily, often aimed at Shi'ite areas and local security forces.

Kirkuk, home to Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and others, is at the heart of a long-running dispute between the central government and the autonomous Kurdish region, which claims the city and the region's rich oil reserves.

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Some critics say the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is not doing enough to stem the threat from militants.

"They are saying they are changing security plans, they are redeploying troops but it is like they are changing the decorations only," Ali Al-Haidari, an Iraqi security expert, told Reuters.

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