Suicide attack kills 18 people in Baghdad, Iraq

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(CNN) — A suicide bomber detonated his car next to a government building in Baghdad on Monday, June 4th, killing at least 18 people and wounding 125, police said.

The attack targeted the offices of Shiite religious affairs in the Bab al-Mouadham district in north-central Baghdad.

On Thursday, May 31st, a series of explosions over a three-hour period shook several areas in Baghdad, leaving at least 14 people dead and dozens injured, Iraqi police said.

It was unclear who committed the attacks and whether they were linked.

One of the explosions Thursday took place in Sulaa, a Shiite neighborhood in northwestern Baghdad. A parked car bomb exploded outside a gas station in a busy area, killing at least 11 people and wounding 36, police said.

The violence comes at a particularly sensitive time, as several major political groups — including Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish factions — are seeking a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

They complain he is unable to achieve a power-sharing deal.

Al-Maliki still has not appointed anyone as ministers of defense, interior, and national security.

Sectarian tensions in Iraq flared following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime. Hussein was later executed after being found guilty of crimes against humanity in the killings of Shiite villagers in 1982, a reported retaliation for an assassination attempt on his life.

Following the invasion, sectarian violence between Iraq’s Shiite majority and Sunni minority nearly ripped the country apart.

While violence has dropped off, there are still near-daily attacks.

Nearly 4,500 Americans and 300-plus allied troops were killed before the last American troops left in December, while estimates of the Iraqi toll run well above 100,000.

Tensions between Sunnis and Shiites flared this year, raising fears of a possible return to violence, after al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government brought charges against its Sunni vice president, alleging he used his security detail as a death squad. Tariq al-Hashimi has denied the allegations.