BAGHDAD: Attacks north of Baghdad, including a car bomb set off by a suicide attacker, killed six people Friday, just days after Iraq’s parliamentary election.
The bloodshed comes as officials count votes from Wednesday’s polls, the first since U.S. troops withdrew in late 2011, amid a protracted surge in nationwide unrest that has left more than 3,000 dead already this year.
Iraqi authorities blame spillover from the civil war in neighboring Syria and say the powerful jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is behind most of the violence. But critics say the government should do more to reach out to disaffected Sunnis to undermine support for militancy.
In Friday’s deadliest attack, a suicide bomber set off a vehicle rigged with explosives on a highway connecting Baghdad to the town of Dujail, in Salaheddin province, killing four soldiers and wounding two others, officials said.
The blast came a day before Shiite pilgrims head through the predominantly-Sunni town on their way to Samarra, site of a major shrine, to commemorate the death of Ali al-Hadi and Hasan al-Askari, venerated imams in Shiite Islam.
Sunni militant groups, including ISIS, frequently target Iraq’s Shiite majority, whom they regard as apostates, particularly during annual commemoration rituals.
Elsewhere Friday, gunmen killed two members of the Yazidi sect in the town of Rabiyah, near Iraq’s northern border with Syria, according to security and medical sources.
The attacks are the latest in the country’s worst bloodshed since it emerged from a brutal Sunni-Shiite sectarian war that claimed tens of thousands of lives from 2006-10.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is bidding for a third term in power, has been blamed by critics for the deterioration in security, as well as rampant corruption and allegedly insufficient improvement in basic services.