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Shiite rally bombing sparks reprisals in Iraq

BAGHDAD--A multiple bombing that killed at least 33 people at a campaign rally for a militant Shiite group likely unleashed a series of apparent sectarian attacks in Iraq, signaling the start of a new wave of Sunni-Shiite bloodletting ahead of elections next week, security officials said Saturday.

An al-Qaida breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, claimed responsibility for Friday's attack on the Baghdad rally, which drew about 10,000 backers of Asaib Ahl al-Haq.

It said on a militant website that the bombings were to avenge what it called the killing of Sunnis and their forced removal from their homes by Shiite militias. The authenticity of the claim could not be independently verified.

A senior Asaib Ahl al-Haq official said the 33 dead included 10 group members who had fought in the Syrian civil war. Members of the Iranian-backed group, like Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah, have been fighting with forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, a member of an offshoot Shiite sect. The Islamic State fights with Sunni rebels trying to oust Assad.

Several hours after the Baghdad bombing Friday, a senior Sunni politician in the mostly Shiite southern city of Basra was shot dead in what appeared to be a revenge attack. On Saturday, police found nine bodies, some bullet-riddled, in several Sunni and Shiite districts of the Iraqi capital, security officials said. The bodies could not be immediately identified.

Also Saturday, gunmen in a speeding car opened fire on a group of civilians in the mixed al-Amil neighborhood of western Baghdad, killing two people and wounding three. The security officials said the shooting took place in one of al-Amil's Sunni sections.

In the afternoon, police said a bomb exploded inside a small restaurant in the mostly Shiite al-Nasir district in the eastern suburbs of Baghdad, killing four people and wounding 11.

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