By Adam Schreck
BAGHDAD: A suicide attacker staged a double bombing near a Shiite mosque in northern Baghdad as worshippers were leaving after evening prayers on Wednesday, killing at least 35 in the latest deadly episode of violence to rock the country, according to Iraqi authorities.
The blasts follow months of heightened sectarian violence in Iraq, intensifying fears the country is slipping back toward the widespread bloodshed in the years that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The past several months have been the deadliest since 2008, when Iraq was pulling back from the brink of sectarian civil war.
Wednesday’s explosions went off as the heat of the day was easing after sunset and worshippers and shoppers filled the streets. The area targeted is known as Kasra, a predominantly Shiite enclave in a part of the city that is otherwise largely Sunni.
A suicide bomber made his way to the gate of the mosque and then blew himself up. Shortly afterward, a car he apparently arrived in exploded nearby, police said.
At least 52 people were wounded, according to police and hospital officials, who confirmed the casualty numbers. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Suicide and car bombings targeting Shiites are frequently the work of al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Wednesday’s blast struck a day after bombings and a shooting killed at least 24 civilians in Iraq.
Militants are keeping up a high pace of attacks in an effort to capitalize on tensions between Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims, which are being inflamed in part by the sectarian divisions reflected in the civil war in neighboring Syria.
Iraqi authorities are resorting to desperate measures to quell the rising violence, ordering huge numbers of cars off the roads, bulldozing soccer fields and even building a medieval-style moat around one city in an effort to keep car bombs out.
Many Iraqis question the security benefits of the heavy-handed efforts, lampooning them online and complaining that they only add to the daily struggle of living in a country weathering its worst bout of bloodshed in half a decade.