A spate of bombings targeting Shiite Muslims across Iraq killed 22 people on Thursday, the latest in a spike in unrest amid weeks of anti-government protests and a political crisis engulfing the country.
The attacks marked the third consecutive day of violence which has claimed 81 lives overall, including that of a Sunni Iraqi MP killed by a suicide bomber and 33 others who died in twin car bombs in an ethnically-mixed northern city.
It comes as Iraq grapples with a long-running political dispute, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki facing protests hardening opposition against his rule and calls from many of his erstwhile government partners for his ouster.
The interim defense minister, Saadoun Dlimi, arrived on Thursday in the province of Anbar, according to Al Arabiya’s correspondent. Protests in Iraq's western Anbar province flared by the end of December with hundreds of Iraqis chanting slogans against Maliki’s government.
No group has claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, but Sunni militants often launch waves of violence in a bid to destabilize the government and push Iraq back towards the sectarian violence that blighted it from 2005 to 2008.
The deadliest of Thursday’s blasts took place in Dujail, 60 kilometers (35 miles) north of Baghdad, where two car bombs minutes apart killed 9 people and wounded 56 others.
The blasts struck outside a government building and a Shiite mosque.
7 others were killed and 17 wounded by a car bomb near a football stadium on the outskirts of the predominantly Shiite city of Hilla, south of Baghdad.
Bombings also struck Hawija and Karbala.
There were no casualties in Hawija but 17 people were wounded in Karbala, a Shiite shrine city south of the capital, including eight Afghani pilgrims.
The violence comes a day after 49 people were killed in a wave of attacks in Baghdad and north of the capital, Iraq’s deadliest day since November 29. Officials raised the toll on Thursday after seven more people died from twin car bombs in Kirkuk city.