BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Seven people were killed and 22 wounded after a car bomb planted outside a cafe exploded on Wednesday in a Shi’ite area of Baghdad, police and a source at the Iraqi Interior Ministry said.
The bomb late on a hot early summer evening came two days after suspected al Qaeda insurgents launched assaults across the country that killed more than 125 people in what officials said was a message that the weakened group was still a threat.
It also came amid continued political wrangling following a March 7 election that produced no outright winner.
A cross-sectarian alliance heavily supported by minority Sunnis took a slim, two-seat lead in the parliamentary vote, but the main Shi’ite-led alliances, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s bloc, have agreed to join forces to try to form a coalition government.
If they succeed, that could anger once-dominant Sunnis who supported the Iraqiya list of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a secular Shi’ite, and possibly fuel renewed bloodshed as U.S. troops prepare for a sharp reduction in numbers by August.
The area in Sadr City where the bomb blew up on Wednesday evening was popular with young people, many of whom play dominoes into the evening.
Sadr City is a stronghold of fiery anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia battled U.S. troops until a crackdown by the Iraqi military in 2008 throughout the Shi’ite south and Baghdad ordered by Maliki.
Earlier on Wednesday, a bomb planted inside a grocery store in another mainly Shi’ite area of Baghdad killed three people and wounded 23 others, police said.
Police said insurgents first killed the shop owner in front of his store in a popular market area in the Shula district of northwestern Baghdad and then detonated a bomb at the door of the shop when people crowded around the body.
The attacks bore the hallmark of Sunni Islamist insurgents such as al Qaeda, who often target crowded, mostly Shi’ite areas.
Gunmen and bombers killed about 125 people on Monday in a series of attacks across the country that included assaults on security checkpoints in Baghdad and car and suicide bombings in the southern oil hub of Basra and the southern town of Hilla.
The attacks showed that insurgents were still strong despite recent setbacks inflicted by U.S. and Iraqi forces, including the death of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, in a raid in April.
Late on Tuesday, a roadside bomb killed five Iraqi police officers and wounded 14 others who were lured to a Baghdad market by the detonation of another improvised explosive.
Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Baghdad bureau; Writing by Michael Christie; Editing by Jon Hemming
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