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Police say car bomb targeting a liquor store overnight in northern Iraq killed 12 people

Iraqi security forces conduct body checks on Shiite pilgrims as they march to the shrine of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, May 24, 2014. Shiite pilgrims are expected to converge on the shrine in northern Baghdad during their annual march to commemorate the eighth-century death of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a key Shiite saint. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

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Iraqi security forces conduct body checks on Shiite pilgrims as they march to the shrine of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, May 24, 2014. Shiite pilgrims are expected to converge on the shrine in northern Baghdad during their annual march to commemorate the eighth-century death of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a key Shiite saint. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

BAGHDAD - A car bomb exploded outside a liquor store in northern Iraq overnight, killing at least 12 civilians, a senior police officer said Sunday.

The blast struck the northern oil-rich and ethnically-mixed city of Kirkuk, deputy police chief Maj. Gen. Torhan Abdul-Rahman Youssef said. Youssef said that the blast in the western al-Wasiti neighbourhood wounded 29.

Kirkuk is located 290 kilometres (180 miles) north of Baghdad.

Militants often target night clubs, liquor stores and brothels. They want to impose a strict interpretation of Islam in Iraq.

The attack comes as Iraq's Shiite-led government is struggling to contain a surge in sectarian violence unseen since the country was pushed to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007 after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Sadaam Hussein. According to the United Nations, 8,868 people were killed in Iraq last year.

The uptick in violence also comes as the country's political rivals are trying to form a new government after parliamentary elections April 30. Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's bloc emerged as the biggest winner, securing 92 seats in the 328-member parliament, but it failed to gain the majority needed to govern alone.

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