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Wave of attacks kills at least 17 in Iraq

KIRKUK, Iraq: A wave of attacks in Baghdad and north of the capital on Wednesday left at least 17 people dead a day after a member of Parliament was killed in a suicide bombing, amid a worsening political crisis engulfing Iraq.
The latest violence, the deadliest of which targeted Kurdish political party offices, comes with Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki facing several protests hardening opposition against his rule and calls for his ouster from many of his erstwhile government partners.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, the deadliest of which struck in the ethnically-mixed city of Kirkuk, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Baghdad. A car bomb detonated by a suicide attacker killed at least 10 people and wounded 140 others, according to provincial health chief Sadiq Omar Rasul.
The blast appeared to target a compound housing local offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani.
Another suicide car bombing in the town of Tuz Khurmatu killed two people and wounded 26 others. The attack struck near the offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
In Baghdad, three separate attacks left five people dead, officials said.
The latest attacks come a day after the killing of MP Ayfan Al-Essawi’s in a suicide attack west of Baghdad. His funeral is expected to be held in Fallujah later on Wednesday.
Essawi was a former leader of the Sahwa, a collection of Sunni tribal militias that turned against Al-Qaeda and sided with the US military from late 2006, helping turn the tide of Iraq’s bloody insurgency.
Sahwa fighters are regularly targeted for attacks by Sunni militants who view them as traitors.
The violence comes amid a political crisis that has pitted Maliki against several of his ministers just months ahead of key provincial elections.
Weeks of anti-government demonstrations in Sunni Arab majority areas, supported by several parties that are members of Maliki’s unity cabinet, have hardened opposition against Maliki, a Shiite.
The demonstrations have decried alleged misuse of anti-terror laws to detain members of the minority community, and claim Sunnis are being targeted by the Shiite-led authorities.
The crisis comes with barely three months to go before provincial elections, a key barometer of support for Maliki and his opponents ahead of a general election next year.
Violence is down across Iraq since the country’s brutal sectarian war, but attacks remain common, especially in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu.

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