Sectarian violence erupts anew in Iraq

Iraqi armed tribesmen pose for a picture on the back of a truck in a road north of Ramadi on May 18.

Story highlights

  • At least 15 deaths Saturday
  • The killings come a day after a spate of violent incidents
  • Sectarian tensions have grown in recent months

At least 15 people were killed Saturday in Baghdad and Anbar provinces, police said, in what appeared to be a continuation of sectarian violence.

Another 14 people, six of them police officers, most of whom are Shia, were kidnapped Saturday in Anbar province, police said.

The incidents occurred a day after dozens of people were killed when bombs struck as worshipers were leaving a Sunni mosque and attending a funeral.

At least 40 people were killed and 46 others wounded Friday in the two roadside explosions outside a Sunni mosque in the city of Baquba, police and health officials told CNN.

Baquba, the largest city in Diyala province, is about 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of Baghdad.

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That bombing, one of several attacks Friday, came on the heels of a spate of sectarian violence in the Middle Eastern nation.

Tensions have grown in recent months between Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites, especially after an incident last month in Hawija, in Kirkuk province, where Iraqi security forces raided a site used by Sunni protesters to demonstrate against the Shiite-led government. At least 50 people were killed and more than 85 others wounded in a clash between security forces and gunmen.

Sunnis, who represent a minority of Iraqis, have been politically marginalized since the overthrow in 2003 of Saddam Hussein. Shiites, who make up a majority of Iraqis, now dominate the government.

Since December, tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of predominantly Sunni provinces -- including Anbar, Nineveh, Salaheddin and Diyala -- demanding that the Shiite-led government stop what they call second-class treatment of Iraq's Sunni community.

The incidence of such attacks has dropped significantly since the peak of sectarian violence, between 2005 and 2007. But tensions, stirred in part by enmity between Shiites and Sunnis, have persisted since the U.S.-led invasion.

Martin Kobler, the U.N. special representative for Iraq, called this week on leaders to protect civilians as another wave of bombings erupted this week, warning that the country "will slide backwards into a dangerous unknown if they do not take action."

"It is the responsibility of all leaders to stop the bloodshed in this country and to protect their citizens," he said.