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23.07.2006 Middle East

Dozens killed by Iraq car bombs

By BBC
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More than 50 people have died in two separate car bomb attacks in Iraq. At least 34 of them were killed when a bomb exploded at a crowded market in Sadr City - a mainly Shia area in the Iraqi capital.

A few hours later at least 20 people died in a blast near a courthouse in the northern city of Kirkuk.

There has been an upsurge in sectarian violence in Iraq in recent months. Two weeks ago, a car bombing in Sadr City killed 66 people.

Sunday's attack there occurred as residents began shopping at the popular market at 0900 (0600GMT).

A suicide bomber drove a minibus packed with explosives into the entrance of the open air market full of shoppers, police said.

More than 70 people were also injured in the blast.

The market bombing followed a bomb attack that killed eight people outside the area's town hall, officials said.

Sadr City had been the scene of overnight fighting, as Iraqi and US troops raided a series of homes.

The troops clashed with the Mehdi Army, a Shia militia, and detained eight people they described as insurgents.

'No civil war'

In the attack in Kirkuk, it is not clear whether the car was abandoned or whether it was driven to the court by a suicide bomber.

In addition to the 20 who died, at least 92 people were wounded in the blast.

Kirkuk is home to Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens who claim ownership of the city and the oil-rich lands around it.

The city has been the scene of frequent attacks on police by insurgents.

The fresh violence came a day after religious and ethnic groups took part in the first meeting of a reconciliation committee set up by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.

Its aim is to unite the country's factions in the hope of ending insurgent attacks and sectarian violence.

On Saturday Iraq's national security adviser Mouwafaq al-Rubaie told the BBC that the country was facing a sectarian conflict, but not civil war.

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