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Iraqi officials: Evening attacks against Shiites kill at least 24 people

Evening attacks against Shiites in Iraq killed at least 24 people and wounded 49, Iraqi officials said Friday, in the latest attempt by insurgents to exacerbate the country's renewed sectarian tensions.

The attacks raised the death toll from a series of attacks Thursday, which included assaults on police stations in the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah west of Baghdad, to 40.

In one of the attacks authorities described Friday, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden motorcycle into a funeral tent for a Shiite family in the town of in Muqdadiyah, about 90 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad.

That explosion killed 13 people and wounded 24, officials said.

In the northern town of Dujail, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Baghdad, a parked car bomb went off outside a Shiite mosque late on Thursday. As people gathered around the blast site, another bomb went off.

The twin bombing killed at least 11 people and wounded 25, said the town mayor, Nayif al-Khazrachi.

Two medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The killings are the latest in a wave of bloodshed that has claimed the lives of more than 2,600 people since the start of April.

The months-long eruption of violence — Iraq's worst in half a decade — is raising fears the country is again returning to the brink of a civil war pitting its Sunni and Shiite Muslim sects against one another

On Wednesday, gunmen launched an assault on an army checkpoint and special oil industry police assigned to protect a nearby pipeline in the western Iraqi desert, killing at least 14 troops there.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the latest attacks but al-Qaida's Iraq branch, which has been gaining strength in recent months, frequently targets Shiites, security forces and civil servants in an effort to undermine the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

According to the United Nations mission to Iraq, violence in June alone claimed the lives of 761 Iraqis and wounded 1,771 others.

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