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Iraq officials say bombs explode near Shiite mosque in northern Baghdad, killing at least 35

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BAGHDAD - A suicide attacker staged a double bombing near a Shiite mosque in northern Baghdad as worshippers were leaving after evening prayers on Wednesday, killing at least 35 in the latest deadly episode of violence to rock the country, according to Iraqi authorities.

The blasts follow months of heightened sectarian violence in Iraq, intensifying fears the country is slipping back toward the widespread bloodshed in the years that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The past several months have been the deadliest since 2008, when Iraq was pulling back from the brink of sectarian civil war.

Wednesday's explosions went off as the heat of the day was easing after sunset and worshippers and shoppers filled the streets. The area targeted is known as Kasra, a predominantly Shiite enclave in a part of the city that is otherwise largely Sunni.

A suicide bomber made his way to the gate of the mosque and then blew himself up. Shortly afterward, a car he apparently arrived in exploded nearby, police said.

At least 52 people were wounded, according to police and hospital officials, who confirmed the casualty numbers. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Suicide and car bombings targeting Shiites are frequently the work of al-Qaida's branch in Iraq, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Wednesday's blast struck a day after bombings and a shooting killed at least 24 civilians in Iraq.

Militants are keeping up a high pace of attacks in an effort to capitalize on tensions between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Muslims, which are being inflamed in part by the sectarian divisions reflected in the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

Members of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority have been protesting against the Shiite-led government since December, angered over what they see as second-class treatment against their sect and what they see as the unfair application of tough anti-terrorism measures.

Attacks surged after a deadly crackdown on a Sunni protest camp by security forces in April. The United Nations says more than 4,000 people have been killed over the past five months, including 804 in August.

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Associated Press writer Sinan Salaheddin contributed reporting.

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Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreck

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