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String of bombings hit Iraq after deadly day

BAGHDAD - Roadside bombs killed two Shiite pilgrims amid a string of explosions in Baghdad on Friday, the day after the country's deadliest sectarian violence in more than a year left scores dead, officials said.

The new wave of attacks raised fears of a renewal of the widespread Sunni versus Shiite bloodshed that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war just a few years ago. While there were no claims of responsibility, attacks against Shiites are typically the work of Sunni insurgents.

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At least three roadside bombs exploded in the morning in different parts of the capital, wounding 17 people in addition to the two killed, police and hospital officials said.

They hit Shiite pilgrims making their way toward the sacred city of Karbala for a holy day that draws hundreds of thousands of believers from across Iraq each year.

Several new explosions could be heard around midday. Police said they were rockets and mortar rounds. At least two buildings in northern and central Baghdad were hit, wounding 10 people, police and hospital officials said.

Baghdad military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said some of the projectiles landed outside the capital's heavily protected Green Zone. He said they were intended to disrupt an annual army parade happening within, and were a sign that insurgents are trying "to prove their presence."

The police and hospital officials spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to brief the media.

A series of bombings targeting members of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority claimed the lives of at least 78 people on Thursday, marking the second large-scale attack by militants since U.S. forces pulled out last month.

The attacks occurred in the run-up to Arbaeen, a holy day that marks the end of 40 days of mourning following the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, a revered Shiite figure. During this time, Shiite pilgrims — many on foot — make their way across Iraq to Karbala, south of Baghdad.

The last U.S. combat troops left Iraq on Dec. 18, ending a nearly nine-year war. Many Iraqis worry that a resurgence of Sunni and Shiite militancy could follow the Americans' withdrawal. In 2006, a Sunni attack on a Shiite shrine triggered a wave of sectarian violence that pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

The violence in Iraq comes as the country's main factions are mired in a crisis pitting politicians from the Shiite majority now in power against the Sunni minority, which dominated government under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

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