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Bombings, shootings kill at least 23 across Iraq

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - At least 23 people were killed in bombings and shootings in Iraq on Friday, police and medical sources said, the latest in the worst wave of sectarian attacks to sweep the country in five years.

The deadliest attack took place in a predominantly Sunni Doura neighborhood in southern Baghdad, where two roadside bombs exploded near a soft drinks store, killing six people and wounding 18, the police and medics said.

Another roadside bomb hit the vehicle of a government-backed Sunni militia's patrol in the Sunni neighborhood of Tarmiya in the north of the Iraqi capital, killing three fighters and wounding another three, police said.

Two roadside bombs also went off near Sunni mosques in the southern and western outskirts of Baghdad after Friday prayers, killing three worshippers and wounding 12, the police said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the Friday attacks but the Iraqi government has blamed Sunni Islamist militant groups, including al Qaeda, which have stepped up their attacks this year and have regained ground and influence in western Iraq.

Hundreds of Iraqis have been killed each month in similar attacks since the start of the year. The growing violence has raised fears of a return to the heights of bloodshed seen in 2006-2007, when tens of thousands died.

Nearly 1,000 Iraqis were killed in October, according to figures from the United Nations, which has called on political leaders to cooperate to end the violence that has escalated since U.S. troops withdrew in December 2011.

Elsewhere in Iraq, gunmen shot dead two policemen and wounded another two at a police check point in Hamam al-Alil, 329 km (200 miles) north of the capital, police said.

Another two soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb exploded in the same area.

(Reporting by Kareem Raheem in Baghdad, Ziyad al-Sanjari in Mousl and Reuters reporter in Baquba, Writing by Suadad al-Salhy; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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