BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a crowded coffee shop late Friday in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing at least 38 and wounding more than two dozen in the latest in a string of bloody attacks pounding Iraq since the start of the holy month of Ramadan this week.
Iraq is being rocked by its deadliest and most sustained wave of bloodshed in half a decade. More than 2,600 people have been killed since the start of April, raising fears that the country is once again edging toward the brink of civil war a decade after Saddam Hussein was toppled in the U.S.-led invasion.
Another suicide bomber and a shooting elsewhere in the country killed five members of the security forces, bringing Friday's toll to 43.
The late-night blast ripped through the Classico Cafe in Kirkuk, 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad, as patrons were enjoying tea and water pipes hours after the sunset meal that breaks the daylong Ramadan fast, police officials said.
The city is a flashpoint for ethnic tensions, with its mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen holding competing claims to claims for control of the oil-rich area. The Kurds want to incorporate it into their self-ruled region in Iraq's north, but Arabs and Turkomen are opposed.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the Kirkuk blast or other attacks in recent days. But Sunni extremists, including al-Qaida's Iraq branch, frequently targets Shiites, security forces and civil servants in an effort to undermine the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. They also are believed to be behind frequent attacks in a band of disputed territories around Kirkuk aimed at heightening ethnic tensions in the area.
The cafe attack wounded 26, police and hospital officials said. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to journalists.