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Car bombings, suicide attacks kill at least 29 people in Iraq, officials say

BAGHDAD - A wave of suicide and car bomb attacks in Iraq killed at least 29 people and wounded dozens more on Thursday, officials said, as political rivals prepared to launch negotiations on forming a new government after last month's national elections.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, which mainly targeted Shiite pilgrims, but they bore the hallmarks of Sunni extremists who view Shiites as heretics. The pilgrims were on their way to the shrine of Imam Mousa al-Kazim, a revered saint who lived in the eighth century, to commemorate the anniversary of his death, which falls on Sunday this year.

Such events draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and are often targeted by militants.

Thursday's deadliest attack took place in Baghdad's eastern Ur neighbourhood when a parked car bomb went off near a group of pilgrims, killing at least 10 and wounding 25 others, a police officer said, adding that the dead included seven children under 14 years of age.

Another parked car bomb exploded in the capital's western Mansour neighbourhood, killing nine and wounding 26 others, another police officer said.

In central Baghdad, a suicide car bomber targeted another group of pilgrims, killing five and wounding 18. Another suicide car bomber drove his explosives-laden car into a checkpoint in the town of Mishahda, killing three policemen and two civilians while wounding 11 others, a police officer said. The town is located 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of Baghdad.

Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

A Shiite coalition led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came in first in the April 30 elections, the first parliamentary vote following the U.S. army's 2011 withdrawal.

Iraq has been witnessing the deadliest surge of unrest since the dark days of 2006 and 2007, when sectarian attacks including near-daily bombings killed tens of thousands of people. United Nations figures show that violence last year in Iraq killed 8,868 people.

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Follow Sinan Salaheddin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sinansm

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