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Iraq attacks kill 20

A wave of attacks across Iraq, including twin car bombs in an ethnically mixed tinderbox city, killed 20 people on Wednesday as a year-long surge of violence showed no signs of let-up.

BAGHDAD: A wave of attacks across Iraq, including twin car bombs in an ethnically mixed tinderbox city, killed 20 people on Wednesday as a year-long surge of violence showed no signs of let-up.

Nearly 50 people were also wounded in the violence, which struck in and around Baghdad, as well as in Salaheddin and Kirkuk provinces to its north, all areas afflicted by near-daily bloodshed.

In the deadliest attack, two vehicles rigged with explosives went off in the centre of Kirkuk, killing eight people and leaving nine wounded, said provincial health chief Sabah Mohammed.

Kirkuk, an oil-rich ethnically diverse city, lies at the centre of a swathe of territory that Iraqi Kurdistan wants to incorporate into its three-province autonomous region over the objections of the central government in Baghdad.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Sunni militants frequently detonate bombs in the disputed territory, capitalising on poor communication between Kurdish and central government security forces.

Elsewhere in north Iraq, two people were killed when a suicide attacker set off a truck bomb in Suleiman Bek, while a corpse booby-trapped with explosives killed a policeman in nearby Tuz Khurmatu.

Both towns, like Kirkuk, lie in the disputed territory, which stretches from Iraq's border with Iran to its frontier with Syria.

In the adjoining province of Salaheddin, two separate bombings left a policeman and a soldier dead.

In the capital, meanwhile, a car bomb killed four people in a shopping area of the Sunni-majority northern neighbourhood of Saba Abkar, while a policeman was shot dead in another Sunni-dominated district in the south.

On Baghdad's northern outskirts, two policemen were killed by a roadside bomb.

Violence is running at its highest levels since 2006-2007 when Iraq was gripped by a brutal Sunni-Shiite sectarian war that killed tens of thousands.

More than 900 people were killed in Iraq last month, according to figures separately compiled by the United Nations and the government.

More than 4,000 have been killed so far this year, according to an AFP tally.

Officials blame external factors for the rise in bloodshed, particularly the civil war in neighbouring Syria, and insist wide-ranging operations against militants are having an impact.

But the violence continues unabated, with analysts and diplomats saying the Shiite-led government needs to do more to reach out to the disaffected Sunni Arab minority to reduce support for militancy.

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