BAGHDAD (AP) — Bomb blasts on Tuesday struck a minibus carrying Shiite pilgrims to the holy city of Karbala and a gathering of demonstrators in an ethnically disputed northern city, killing at least six and wounding dozens in the latest in a wave of attacks roiling Iraq.
Iraq is weathering its deadliest outburst of violence since 2008, with more than 2,000 people killed since the start of April. The bloodshed appears to be largely the work of resurgent Sunni militants such as al-Qaida that are feeding off Sunni discontent with the Shiite-led government.
The bus bombed Tuesday was struck about 55 kilometers (35 miles) south of Baghdad while it was traveling between the towns of Musayyib and Iskandariyah, according to police and hospital officials who provided the casualty details.
Tens of thousands of Shiites are massing in the holy city of Karbala, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, for the annual festival of Shabaniyah marking the anniversary of the birth of the ninth-century Shiite leader known as the Hidden Imam.
The day's other deadly attack happened when at least one suicide bomber blew himself up near a group of Turkomen demonstrators protesting near tents set up for mourners in the city of Tuz Khormato, according to Ali Abdul-Rahman, a spokesman for the Salahuddin provincial governor.
Abdul-Rahman said there multiple casualties, but that he was able to confirm the deaths of three local politicians. He said the protesters were demanding tighter security for the community following a deadly car bomb attack Sunday. They were protesting near a tent set up to receive mourners remembering that attack.
Tuz Khormato sits in a band of territory contested by Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen about 200 kilometers (130 miles) north of Baghdad.
Earlier on Tuesday, gunmen in a speeding car fired on a church in Baghdad's southeastern al-Amin neighborhood, wounding three guards, police officers and a health official said.
The officials provided details of the attacks on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information to journalists.
Tuesday's attacks happened as Iraqis were still cleaning up from a wave of evening bombings that targeted markets in and around Baghdad. Those attacks, which mainly struck Shiite or religiously mixed areas, and other blasts north of the capital Monday killed at least 42 people and wounded dozens of others.
The United States and Britain each condemned the previous day's bombings in statements Tuesday, with the U.S. Embassy calling attacks during the Shiite festival of Shabaniyah "particularly reprehensible."
"We call upon the leaders and people of Iraq to work together to combat terrorism and we are committed to assisting in these efforts to bring the attackers to justice," the U.S. Embassy said.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attacks. But al-Qaida's Iraq branch, which has been gaining strength in recent months, frequently targets Shiites, security forces and civil servants in an effort to undermine the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
Associated Press writers Adam Schreck and Sinan Salaheddin contributed reporting.