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More deadly violence, more targeting of suspected militants in Iraq

By Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
updated 2:20 PM EDT, Thu March 20, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • At least 13 have been killed in shootings, explosions around Iraq, police officials say
  • In addition, five people are found shot to death in a town about 186 miles north of Baghdad
  • Interior Ministry: Iraqi forces kill at least 18 alleged Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters

(CNN) -- Explosions and shootings around Iraq killed at least 13 people Thursday, police officials in Baghdad and other provinces told CNN. It's the latest round of violence to strike the volatile Middle Eastern nation.

That toll does not include five bodies that were found shot dead in the heads and chests in al-Shirqat, a community about 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Baghdad.

Nor does it take into account the 18 alleged Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters that Iraq's Interior Ministry reports were killed Thursday in Anbar province.

Iraq has been beset with political and sectarian violence for months, oftentimes pitting Sunnis -- a minority in Iraq -- against Shiite Muslims, who came to dominate the government after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003.

The United Nations said 2013 was the deadliest year in Iraq since 2008, with almost 8,000 people killed.

And last month alone, terrorist attacks and other violence killed more than 700 Iraqis and wounded nearly 1,400 others, according to the United Nations.

The recent violence includes a suicide bombing late Wednesday night inside a popular coffee shop in al-Washah, a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in western Baghdad.

At least 12 people died and 40 others were wounded in that blast, police officials in Baghdad told CNN on Thursday.

CNN's Greg Botelho contributed to this report.

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