Late night attacks take Iraq death toll to 116: police, medics

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Two bombs killed nine people in Iraq late on Monday, police and hospital sources said, taking to 116 the death toll in a string of coordinated bomb and gun attacks against mostly Shi’ite Muslim targets.

A car bomb exploded near a cafe in the Shi’ite Ameen district in southeastern Baghdad, killing six men and wounding 24 others as they sat smoking shisha water pipes and drinking tea.

Three other people died when a roadside bomb went off near their mini-bus about 20 km (12 miles) west of Baquba, a city northeast of Baghdad. Seven others were wounded in the blast, police said.

The attacks took to at least 299 the number of people wounded in the bloodiest day of violence to hit Iraq this year.

The bloodshed, which coincided with an intensifying of the conflict in neighboring Syria, highlighted deficiencies in the Iraqi security forces, which failed to prevent insurgents from striking in multiple locations across the country.

No group has claimed responsibility for the wave of assaults but a senior Iraqi security official accused the local wing of al Qaeda, made up of Sunni Muslim militants hostile to the Shi’ite-led government, which is friendly with Iran.

Sectarian slaughter peaked in 2006-2007, but deadly attacks have persisted while political tensions among Iraq’s main Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions have increased since U.S. troops completed their withdrawal in December.

Reporting by Kareem Raheem in Baghdad and Ali Mohammed in Baquba, writing by Aseel Kami; Editing by Jon Boyle