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Attacks in Iraq during religious observance kill 22

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BAGHDAD (AP) — Attacks across Iraq targeting security forces and those marking a major Shiite commemoration killed 21 people on Wednesday while gunmen in the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah assassinated the city's mayor as he was supervising a clean-up project.

The deadliest among Wednesday's attacks was the one targeting a group of Shiites marking Ashoura in the eastern city of Baqouba, a former al Qaeda stronghold 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. That attack killed eight people, including two children, and wounded 35, a police officer said.

Shiites are marking Ashoura, the remembrance commemorating the death of Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq in the seventh century. The commemoration draws hundreds of thousands of Shiites to mourning ceremonies. Sunni extremists also target those marking Ashoura, as they consider Shiites to be heretics.

Also on Wednesday, a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into a police checkpoint outside the northern city of Tikrit, killing five police officers and three civilians, another police officer said.

The bombing in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, also wounded 18 people, the officer said.

Militants detonated bombs near police officers' homes in the town of Karmah, west of the Iraqi capital, killing four people and wounding 24, police said.

And in the nearby city of Fallujah, 40 miles from Baghdad, gunmen on foot shot and killed the mayor, Adnan Hussein, as he was supervising cleaning teams in one of the neighborhoods, a police officer said. Two of his guards were wounded in the attack.

In Baghdad's western suburb of Abu Ghraib, a bomb targeting a police patrol killed one officer and wounded seven, police said.

Several medical officials confirmed the casualty figures from the attacks. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to publicly release the figures.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday's attacks, but suicide attacks and bombings, especially against Iraqi forces and Shiites, are a favorite tactic of al Qaeda's local branch. The group recently escalated its campaign of violence in order to thwart the Shiite-led government's efforts to maintain security.

Violence spiked in Iraq since a deadly security crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in April, with the pace of killing reaching levels unseen since 2008, leaving more than 5,500 people died since then, according to United Nations figures.

Wednesday's attacks bring the death toll across the country this month to 134, according to an Associated Press count.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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