Middle East

Bomb attacks in Iraq kill at least 25

Boys walk past the scene of a bomb blast in Tuz Khurmatu, Iraq (17 December 2012)
Image caption Two bombs exploded in a Shia district of Tuz Khurmatu

At least 25 people have been killed in a series of bomb blasts across Iraq, officials and medical workers say.

Car and truck bombs were detonated mainly in ethnically diverse towns and villages in northern Iraq.

The area is a source of dispute between the Iraqi government and the Kurdish minority, which governs an autonomous region in the north.

The attacks mark a second consecutive day of violence in the region, though it is unclear who is behind them.

The bloodiest attack was in a village near the city of Mosul, when a truck bomb exploded killing seven people, officials said.

The village is inhabited by families from the Shabak ethno-religious minority group.

Two car bombs also exploded in a Shia district of Tuz Khurmatu, a town 70km (45 miles) south of Kirkuk, killing five people and wounding at least 24 others.

There were also reports of bombings targeting Shia pilgrims heading to city of Samarra, as well as deadly bomb attacks in the capital Baghdad.

Disputed territories

On Sunday at least nine people were killed and dozens wounded when blasts struck three Shia Muslim targets in the city of Kirkuk and an office of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the town of Jalula, to the south-east.

Kirkuk and Jalula are in oil-rich territories that border the area administered by the Kurdish regional government, which claims rights over them.

They have been a potential flashpoint since the last US troops left a year ago.

Last month, both the government and Kurdish authorities sent troops to reinforce military positions in the disputed territories.

No groups have claimed responsibility for the bombings, but the mayor of Tuz Khurmatu Shalal Abdul told Reuters: "The bombers are trying to stir tensions, but we are telling them we will be more unified by these attacks."

Although sectarian violence has decreased in Iraq since the height of the insurgency in 2006 and 2007, attacks are still common.

Gun and bomb attacks on a Shabak family near Mosul and Shia in Tuz Khurmatu left several dead and injured on a single day in October.

The Shabak, who number about 50,000 and live between the Mosul plain and Baashiqa, have their own distinct language and belief system.

They are sometimes described as Ahl al-Haqq, a sect which venerates Ali. Others believe they are Shia or followers of Yarsanism, sharing its belief in seven good and evil spirits. They are also said to believe in a universal spirit and practise some Christian rites.

The Shabak are said to be of Turkic, Persian or Kurdish ethnic origin. Some speak Gorani, a dialect of Kurdish, while others speak a Turkic dialect. In recent decades, many Shabak have become Arabised.