Bomb attacks on Iraqi soldiers, Shi'ites kill 49

BAGHDAD (REUTERS) - Ten cars rigged with explosives blew up in predominantly Shi'ite Muslim areas in and around Baghdad on Sunday, and a suicide bomber attacked soldiers queuing up for their pay in northern Iraq, killing 49 people in total, police said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for any of the blasts, but Shi'ites are seen as apostates by hardline Sunni Islamists linked with Al Qaeda, which has been regaining momentum this year.

Soldiers and security personnel are also prime targets for Sunni militants seeking to destabilise Iraq's Shi'ite-led government.

Sunday's deadliest attack took place in the northern city of Mosul, when a man driving a car blew himself up outside a government bank where soldiers were waiting to collect their salaries, police said. Twelve people were killed.

A further 37 people died in apparently coordinated blasts in and around Baghdad. In the worst of those, two car bombs exploded moments apart near a busy market in the town of Nahrawan, south of the capital, killing seven.

"I was eating my breakfast when a powerful blast shook the building, shattering the window of my apartment and covering the dining table with pieces of glass," said Suad Ahmed, a woman living in Baladiyat, where another car bomb killed three people.

"I was terrified, I heard women and children shouting next door. I started to cry. I was afraid of death."

Al Qaeda was forced underground in 2007 and violence eased in the following years, but is now on the rise again, with around 3,000 civilians killed so far this year, according to monitoring group Iraq Body Count.

Insurgents have exploited growing anger among Iraq's Sunni minority, which complains it has been marginalised under the Shi'ite-led government that came to power following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

A raid on a Sunni protest camp in April touched off a violent backlash by militants that is still ongoing.

Relations between Islam's two main denominations have come under further strain from the civil war in neighbouring Syria, which has drawn Sunnis and Shi'ites from Iraq and the wider region into battle.

Al Qaeda's Syrian and Iraqi affiliates merged earlier this year to form The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on both sides of the border.

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