DIWANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - Two blasts at a busy cattle market in a mainly Shi’ite city in southern Iraq on Friday killed at least 5 people and injured dozens more, police and medics said, as Iraq’s precarious sectarian balance comes under growing strain.
No one claimed responsibility for the attacks immediately, but Sunni Muslim insurgents have been redoubling their efforts to undermine the Shi’ite-led government and spark deeper intercommunal fighting since the start of the year.
Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s power-sharing government has been all but paralyzed since U.S. troops withdrew in December 2011.
Cows and calves were lying on the ground, covered in blood and dirt after the two car bombs were detonated simultaneously at the market in Diwaniya, 150 km (95 miles) south of the capital Baghdad.
“I came to buy some calves and was checking them when the explosion happened, I threw myself on the ground, then the second explosion happened,” Jassim Khalid, a butcher at the scene told Reuters.
Friday’s blasts followed a series of explosions targeting Shi’ite neighborhoods of Baghdad late on Thursday in which at least 22 people were killed.
Iraq is calmer than in the communal bloodletting of 2006-2007, but there are concerns the war in neighboring Syria, where mainly Sunni rebels are fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Shi’ite Iran, is pushing Iraq back towards sectarian strife.
Reporting by Imad al-Khuzaie, writing by Suadad al-Salhy, Editing by Isabel Coles and Patrick Graham