Wave of bombings kills 17 across Iraq

Iraqi insurgents unleashed a new wave of bombings across the country early Wednesday targeting security forces and civilians, police and health officials said, killing 17 people and wounding dozens more in the latest challenge to government efforts to promote a sense of stability.

The deadliest explosions took place in the disputed northern city of Kirkuk. In the first attack, a parked car bomb exploded near the offices of a Kurdish political party, then another bomb went off as police and rescuers gathered, a police officer said. Such double bombings are a common insurgent tactic. Five members of a security unit from the nearby Kurdistan self-rule region were killed and four others wounded, officials said.

About an hour later, another parked car bomb hit an Iraqi army patrol in the Sunni-dominated town of Hawija to the west of Kirkuk, killing five soldiers and wounding four others.

Kirkuk is located some 290 kilometers (175 miles) north of Baghdad, is home of mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, all competing to control the city.

In Baghdad, a parked car bomb explosion shook the city center during the morning rush hour, killing one civilian and wounding 10 others, police said. The blast went off near the Palestine and Ishtar Sheraton hotels, two downtown landmarks, rattling buildings several blocks away.

Associated Press journalists could see a thick plume of black smoke billowing into the air. A series of coordinated attacks near the two hotels and others in Baghdad killed at least 37 people in January 2010.

To the south of Baghdad, another parked car bomb went off in a market for villagers near the city of Hillah, killing six people and wounding 42 others, two police officers said. Two women were among the dead. Hillah is 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad.

Health official confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though suicide car bombings are a favorite tactic of Sunni militant groups such as al-Qaida.

Violence has ebbed in Iraq, but insurgent attacks, often aimed at undermining the stability of the Shiite-led government, are still frequent.