by Jamal Hashim
BAGHDAD, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- Up to 18 people were killed and 108 wounded in a new wave of bombings across Iraq on Wednesday, on the eve of Muslim festival marking the Islamic lunar new year.
The deadliest attack occurred in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, when four car bombs killed a total of nine people and wounded some 32 others, a provincial police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
One of the attacks reportedly went off in central the city of Kirkuk, some 250 km north of Baghdad, and the second ripped through the city of Hawija, some 50 km southwest of Kirkuk, the source said.
A third car bomb detonated near the office of a Kurkish party in a village, just south of Kirkuk, while a fourth exploded at a parking lot in northwestern Kirkuk, the source added.
Also in the province, a roadside bomb struck a convoy of vehicles carrying Omer al-Hamiri, governor of the adjacent province of Diyala, at the southern entrance of Kirkuk City, damaging two of his vehicles without causing human casualty, the source said.
The ethnically mix province of Kirkuk and its capital Kirkuk City are part of the disputed areas between the Kurds and both Arabs and Turkomans.
Another car bomb attacked a crowded marketplace near the city of Hilla, some 100 km south of Baghdad, killing six people and wounding at least 37 others, an Interior Ministry source anonymously told Xinhua.
In Baghdad, a car bomb detonated near the convoy of a senior police officer at al-Firdos Square in central the city, wounding two of his bodyguards and five civilians, the ministry source said.
In a separate incident, three people were killed and 15 wounded when a sticky bomb attached to a car park outside a restaurant on a main road in Hafriyah area, some 70 km southeast of Baghdad, detonated, a local police source told Xinhua.
In Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, a car bomb went off at a marketplace in the town of Baladruz, east of the provincial capital city of Diyala, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, wounding seven civilians, a provincial police source said.
Ten more people were also wounded in separate bomb explosions across Diyala during the day, the source said.
The attacks come one day before the beginning of the Muslim month of Muharram which marks the new Islamic new year, as well as the beginning of a major Shiite religious ritual of Ashura.
The 10-day annual Ashura mourning rite, the holiest of the Shiite religious calendar, which marks the death in 680 AD of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.
The Shiite mourners usually gather in processions in their towns and cities before they move on foot or buses to the holy shrines in Karbala, some 110 km south of Baghdad.
Insurgent groups frequently carried out attacks against Shiite pilgrims who perform communal rituals, killing and wounding hundreds of them in attempts to provoke sectarian strife in the country.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility about Wednesday' s attacks by any insurgent group.
However, Al-Qaida front in Iraq frequently claimed the responsibility of most deadly attacks in the country, raising fears that the terrorist group could return to widespread violence, particularly, as Iraq is trying to avoid the spillover of violence from the ongoing conflict in neighboring Syria.
Observers see that Wednesday's attacks are part of an attempt by the insurgent groups to show that they are capable of carrying out coordinated and high-profile attacks that could undermine the government's claims of providing security to Iraqis.