KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP) – A policeman and two civilians were killed in bombings Tuesday, officials said, and 16 militants died as security forces conducted wide-ranging operations to combat the country's worst violence since 2008.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has vowed to press on with a campaign against militants in a bid to stem the spike in bloodshed, with more than 3,500 people killed since the start of this year and the interior ministry describing Iraq as a "battleground".
Separate bombings at a livestock market and a police station north of Baghdad killed three people, including a policeman, and wounded nine others, security and medical officials said.
Sixteen militants were also killed north of the capital.
Nine died and four were wounded in an apparent dispute between militant groups, when a bomb targeting a vehicle exploded south of the disputed city of Kirkuk.
Though most of the militants, allegedly linked to Al-Qaeda, were Iraqi Arabs, one was a Kurd and another was Turkman, security officials said.
The bomb was said to have been set off by Sunni militant group known as Ansar al-Sunna, apparently in revenge for an earlier attack on relatives of their fighters.
Seven other militants were killed by security forces north of Baghdad, officials said, in two separate sets of clashes.
Security forces have mounted some of the biggest operations targeting militants since the 2011 withdrawal of American troops, but analysts and diplomats say Iraq is not tackling the root causes of the unrest.
A top general claimed security forces arrested 116 militants on Tuesday, including dozens of Al-Qaeda-linked fighters, destroyed six of their vehicles, two training camps and a site where car bombs were being made.
Violence has markedly increased this year, to levels not seen since Iraq was emerging from a brutal sectarian war in 2008.
Analysts and diplomats link the upsurge to anger among Sunni Arabs over their alleged ill-treatment at the hands of the Shiite-led authorities, which they say has given Sunni militant groups more room to recruit and carry out attacks.