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Iraq mayhem 'ready to explode' into wider conflict, U.N. official says

By Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jason Hanna, CNN
updated 10:18 AM EDT, Thu May 30, 2013
People inspect the site of a blast Thursday in Baghdad, one of many in the recent surge of violence in Iraq.
People inspect the site of a blast Thursday in Baghdad, one of many in the recent surge of violence in Iraq.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • At least 10 more killed in Baghdad on Thursday amid rising religious, political tensions
  • Nearly 400 people have been killed in acts of violence in May, according to a CNN tally.
  • U.N. representative Martin Kobler: "Systemic violence is ready to explode at any moment"
  • Kobler: Leaders need to take steps immediately

(CNN) -- A wave of deadly bombings struck Baghdad on Thursday in an already remarkably lethal week in Iraq, prompting a U.N. official to warn the mayhem is "ready to explode" into a wider conflict.

And violence wasn't limited to Iraq's capital -- Anbar province's governor escaped the latest apparent attempt to assassinate him when bombs exploded Thursday near his convoy in Ramadi and injured four of his bodyguards, police said.

In Baghdad, a car bomb exploded Thursday afternoon outside a university, and three car bombs and a roadside bomb exploded Thursday morning in four neighborhoods, killing at least 10 people and wounding 41 others, police said.

The deaths come as political and sectarian violence rises across Iraq, much of it stemming from discord between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Nearly 400 people have been killed in acts of violence in May, according to a CNN tally.

And since Monday alone, at least 120 people have been killed.

Martin Kobler, the U.N. special representative to Iraq, expressed dismay at the recent violence and condemned the attack against the Anbar governor.

He also warned the situation could worsen if leaders don't take action.

"Systemic violence is ready to explode at any moment if all Iraqi leaders do not engage immediately to pull the country out of this mayhem," Kobler said in Baghdad.

Thursday's violence included the afternoon car bombing outside a university in southeastern Baghdad. At least two people were killed and eight others wounded in that blast, city police officials told CNN. No other details were immediately available.

Iraqi security forces are on high alert and have established more checkpoints in and around the capital, causing massive traffic jams during rush hour.

In central Ramadi, more than 60 miles (100 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Anbar Gov. Qassim Mohammed Abid was unharmed when car and roadside bombs exploded Thursday morning near his convoy, Ramadi police officials said.

Abid has survived several assassination attempts over the years. He lost his left hand in a suicide attack in the predominantly Sunni province in 2009.

Recent violence in Iraq comes amid rising Sunni-Shiite tensions. Since December, tens of thousands of Sunni demonstrators have taken to the streets across the country, protesting against the Shiite-led government.

Sunni Arabs had more political clout in Iraq under Saddam Hussein until his ouster in 2003 after a U.S.-led invasion. Under the Shiite-led government in the post-Saddam era, Sunnis have felt marginalized.

About two-thirds of Iraq's nearly 32 million people are Shiite, and roughly a third are Sunni, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Here is a look at Iraq's deadly four-day stretch, according to police officials:

• At least 30 deaths on Wednesday, with 20 people killed in four bombings in Baghdad, and 10 killed in acts of violence in Mosul.

• At least 23 deaths on Tuesday and more than 80 others hurt in three explosions and three shootings in Baghdad and Mosul.

• At least 57 deaths on Monday and 190 others hurt in a wave of attacks in Baghdad and other cities.

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