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Iraq Sunni mosque hit by bomb blast, killing at least 15 people

BAGHDAD A bomb exploded inside a Sunni mosque in central Iraq during midday prayers Friday, killing at least 15 people in the latest outburst of deadly violence roiling the country during the holy month of Ramadan.

Suicide attacks, car bombings and other violence have killed nearly 200 people since the faithful began daytime fasting to mark the Islamic holy month, which started earlier in July.

The violence is an extension of a surge that has ripped through Iraq for months, reviving fears of a return to the widespread sectarian bloodshed that pushed the country to the brink of civil war after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Provincial councilman Sadiq al-Huusseini said Friday's explosion hit the Abu Bakir al-Sideeq mosque in the town of Wijaihiya, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. He said it killed 15.

Police and hospital officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information to media, confirmed the death toll. They also reported that more than 50 were wounded in the explosion, and warned that the number of dead could rise.

Violence across Iraq has risen sharply since a heavy-handed crackdown by security forces on a Sunni protest camp in the northern town of Hawija on April 23. That raid followed months of rallies by Iraq's minority Sunnis against the Shiite-led government over what they contend is second-class treatment and the unfair use of tough anti-terrorism measures against their sect.

The surge in bloodshed has left more than 2,800 people dead and many more wounded since the start of April.

Attacks on Sunni mosques, for years a relatively rare target in Iraq, have picked up significantly in recent months.

There has been no claim of responsibility for Friday's bombing or many of the other recent attacks.

Sunni extremists such as al Qaeda's Iraq arm that seek to undermine the Shiite-led government are frequently blamed for bombing attacks targeting civilians. They could be behind the Sunni mosque bombings too, hoping to incite a sectarian backlash against Shiites. So could Shiite militias that have been remobilizing following years of relative quiet.

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