BAGHDAD (AP) — Three bomb blasts shortly before sunset Wednesday killed 10 people north of Baghdad in the latest spasm of violence to grip Iraq.
The blasts underscored the volatility of the country eight months after the last U.S. troops pulled out. Insurgents, led by the local branch of al-Qaida, are trying to re-establish themselves in their old strongholds and undermine the government.
The first bomb went off Wednesday in Baqouba, about 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of the Iraqi capital. Police said two civilians and one police officer were killed, and five people were wounded.
Minutes later, authorities said, a car bomb exploded at the entrance of the main market in Muqdadiyah, about 90 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad. A second blast struck as police arrived on the scene. Police said the toll for both bombings in the town was seven killed and 26 wounded.
The bombs exploded shortly before the ceremonial breaking of the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan, when families and friends gather for a sunset meal. Police said the Muqdadiyah market was crowded with shoppers who were buying last-minute supplies for the "iftar" meal.
Baqouba and Muqdadiyah are both located in the province of Diyala, a former stronghold of al-Qaida's Iraqi branch. The province is home to both Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though large coordinated bombings are often the work of al-Qaida's local franchise.
The al-Qaida offshoot, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, has declared its intentions to reclaim areas from which it was routed by the U.S. and its local allies. It has for years had a hot-and-cold relationship with the global terror network's leadership.
Both shared the goal of targeting the U.S. military in Iraq and, to an extent, undermining the Shiite government that replaced Saddam Hussein's regime. But al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri distanced themselves from the Iraqi militants in 2007 for also killing Iraqi civilians instead of focusing on Western targets.
Generally, al-Qaida in Iraq does not launch attacks or otherwise operate beyond Iraq's borders. But in early 2012, al-Zawahri urged Iraqi insurgents to support the Sunni-based uprising in neighboring Syria against President Bashar Assad, an Alawite. The sect is a branch of Shiite Islam.
Earlier in the day, gunmen killed three people in two separate attacks in and near the northern city of Mosul.
Two brothers were shot during a pre-dawn attack on a house in the small village of Qahataniya, outside Mosul, according to police. The brothers were Yazidis, a persecuted Kurdish-speaking minority sect. The Yazidi faith combines various ancient beliefs with elements of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
In the second attack, gunmen killed a policeman in central Mosul, another police officer said.
Hospital and morgue officials confirmed the casualties. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information to reporters.
Associated Press writers Bushra Juhi and Sameer N. Yacoub contributed reporting.