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Baghdad car bomb kills 9 in Shi'ite area

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A car bomb killed nine people and wounded 20 in the Shi’ite Kadhimiya district of northwest Baghdad on Tuesday, police said, a day after seven car bombs killed 37 people across the Iraqi capital.

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The latest attack struck an area where one of Shi’ite Islam’s holiest shrines is located. Targeting Shi’ite areas such as Kadhimiya to stoke sectarian tension has been a favourite tactic of Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, although no one claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Eyewitnesses told Reuters Television that the mother of a 7-month-old baby died in the blast and the father was critically wounded when the explosion struck the front of their car.

“The father was badly burnt. We don’t know whether he will survive or not. We took the baby out of the car, but we don’t know what to do with him,” said an eyewitness who gave his name as Asaad Raad, holding the child in his arms.

“This child lost a mother and a father. What else can I say?”

Violence has fallen dramatically in Iraq in the past year, but al Qaeda and other insurgents have shown themselves still capable of launching frequent bomb attacks.

U.S. and Iraqi officials blamed Monday’s series of bombings -- an apparently coordinated strike -- on al Qaeda militants.

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But a senior Iraqi intelligence source, who declined to be named, said there was evidence the bombs could be the work of the militant Badr Organisation, the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI).

ISCI is allied to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Dawa party in parliament, but the two have become somewhat estranged.

Dawa trounced ISCI in local elections in January after a campaign in which Maliki sought credit for increasing security and called for national unity. ISCI by contrast pushed overtly religious themes and called for an autonomous Shi’ite south.

Maliki’s strong showing gave him some momentum ahead of a national election at the end of the year.

The intelligence source said the authorities had received intelligence 10 days earlier that Badr militants might set off bombs across Baghdad to send out a message that Maliki’s government is not delivering on security as it claims.

But National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, asked if the bombings could be the work of the Badr Organisation instead of al Qaeda, replied: “All the (finger) ... prints of al Qaeda were there.”

Reporting by Aseel Kami, Tim Cocks and Abdul-Rahman Taher; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Michael Christie