KIRKUK (Reuters) - Six blasts targeting Shi’ite mosques in the disputed Iraqi city of Kirkuk killed at least eight people and wounded 67 during prayers on Friday, police and hospital sources said.
The attacks were the latest in a wave of attacks apparently launched to stoke sectarian tensions and challenge the country’s Shi’ite Muslim Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The government is still struggling to overcome a stubborn insurgency eight months after U.S. troops left.
Two roadside bombs exploded outside the Imam Ali Husseiniya in the city, while one roadside bomb and one car bomb each detonated outside both the Khazaal Al-Timimi Husseiniya and the Al-Mustafa Husseiniya. A ‘Husseiniya’ is a Shi’ite mosque.
Buildings and cars near the blasts were damaged and corpses lay in the streets, a Reuters witness said.
“I want to ask the government, the politicians, the armed groups and everyone: what are we guilty of that we are targeted?” Abu Amina, a 34-year-old local man with his head and arm bandaged, said. “We are not police officers, not politicians. We are worshippers, simple people.”
Iraq’s local al Qaeda wing has claimed responsibility for other attacks on Shi’ite neighborhoods and security forces. They are seen as a revival of the group’s campaign to provoke the Sunni-versus-Shi’ite sectarian violence that drove the country close to civil war four years ago.
No group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks.
Attacks on Sunni and Shi’ite mosques are especially sensitive in Iraq where a power-sharing government of Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds is riddled with infighting.
Reporting by Mustafa Kareem in Kirkuk and Raheem Salman in Baghdad; Writing by Barry Malone