Female suicide bombers attacked crowds in Baghdad and the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Monday morning as part of a series of four bombings that left at least 46 people dead and more than 200 wounded, security officials said.
The first attacks occurred in Baghdad, as millions of Shiite Muslim pilgrims walked toward the Kadhemiyah shrine a day before one of the holiest Shiite festivals.
A homemade bomb detonated at 7:45 in the morning, blasting nails and screws into a crowd of pilgrims who'd stopped to rest near Fardos Square, where Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled five years ago.
Panicked survivors fled into a narrow side street, where a woman blew herself up five minutes later; another blew herself up 15 minutes after that, authorities said.
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Together, the Baghdad attacks killed at least 24 people and wounded 67.
At around 9 a.m. in Kirkuk, hundreds of thousands of Kurds were protesting the passage of a provincial elections bill when a woman in the crowd detonated a suicide vest, killing 22 people and wounding around 150.
Demonstrators ran from the scene and toward the headquarters of the Iraqi Turkmen Front.
Demonstrators then burned the building to the ground, eyewitnesses told McClatchy. Gunmen had fired into the crowd from inside the building, said Najat Hassen, the head of the local branch of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, though a spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition in Baghdad and government officials in Kirkuk said the evidence pointed toward the terrorist group al-Qaida in Iraq.
Violence in Iraq had been at a four-year low, and coalition and Iraqi security forces claimed to have crippled al-Qaida in Iraq and the Shiite militias that are fighting them.
But the attacks are a reminder of the deep fault lines – between Kurds and Arabs in the north, and Sunni Muslim and Shiite Arabs in the rest of Iraq – that still divide the country.