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14 die as Iraq bloodshed continues

The Iraqi branch of al Qaida has claimed responsibility for a lethal wave of coordinated bombings in the Baghdad area earlier this week, as new attacks killed another 14 in the latest outbreak of violence to hit the country.

The deadliest attack on Friday struck after nightfall in a Kurdish neighbourhood in the ethnically mixed town of Tuz Khormato. Insurgents there set off a non-lethal stun bomb apparently designed to attract a crowd before detonating a real bomb that killed 12 and wounded 10, said the town's police chief, Colonel Hussein Ali Rasheed.

Tuz Khormato, a frequent flashpoint for violence, sits in a band of territory contested by Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen about 130 miles north of Baghdad.

Iraq is facing its deadliest wave of violence since 2008. The spike in bloodshed is raising worries the country is heading back toward the brink of civil war fuelled by the country's sectarian and ethnic divisions.

Hours earlier, the al Qaida affiliate in Iraq, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, posted a message on a militant website taking responsibility for the deadly attacks that rocked the Baghdad area on Wednesday. Coordinated car bombings and other violence that day that killed at least 82 people, mostly in Shiite areas of the capital.

The group claimed the attacks were a response to the August 19 execution of 17 Sunni prisoners, all but one of them convicted on terrorism-related charges. It said tight security measures imposed by Iraqi forces failed to stop the attacks, and the group vowed to carry out more attacks against government targets.

"We will avenge the blood of our brothers," the group said.

The authenticity of the statement could not be independently confirmed. It was posted on a website commonly used by jihadists and its style was consistent with earlier al Qaida statements.

The bombings were the latest in a wave of bloodshed that has swept Iraq since April, killing more than 4,000 people and worsening already strained ties between Iraq's Sunni minority and the Shiite-led government. More than 570 people have been killed so far in August.

In the latest attacks, police said gunman on a speeding motorbike opened fire on Sunni worshippers as they were heading to a mosque to perform Friday prayers in the Sunni neighbourhood of Adel in western Baghdad, killing two worshippers and wounding two others.

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