BAGHDAD — A barrage of car bomb and suicide bomb blasts rocked Baghdad and two northern Iraqi communities Thursday, killing at least 61 people during a major holiday period and extending a relentless wave of bloodshed gripping the country.
The bulk of the blasts struck in mainly Shiite Muslim parts of the Iraqi capital shortly after nightfall, sending ambulances racing through the streets with sirens blaring. Authorities reported nine car bomb explosions across Baghdad, including one near a playground that killed two children.
It was the deadliest day in Iraq since Oct. 5, when a suicide bombing targeting Shiite pilgrims and other attacks left at least 75 dead.
Iraq is weathering its deadliest outburst of violence since 2008, raising fears the country is returning to the widespread sectarian killing that pushed it to the brink of civil war in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Iraq's resurgent branch of al-Qaida is believed to be behind much of the killing as part of its campaign to undermine the Shiite-led government.
Thursday's bloodshed began early in the morning when a suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden car among houses in an ethnic minority village in northern Iraq. That attack, in the Shabak village of al-Mouafaqiyah near the restive city of Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, killed at least 15 and wounded 52, police said.
The United Nations envoy to Iraq condemned the attack and said rising violence in Ninevah province requires "urgent action and strengthened security cooperation" between regional authorities and the central government.
"The United Nations pays particular attention to the protection of minority communities who continue suffering from heinous attacks (and) economic and social barriers," envoy Nickolay Mladenov said.
Another suicide bomber struck hours later, setting off an explosives belt inside a cafe in Tuz Khormato, killing three and wounding 28, police chief Col. Hussein Ali Rasheed said.