BAGHDAD: At least 20 people were killed by a series of car bombs in mainly Shia districts of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on Monday and 11 others were killed by attacks in the southern city of Basra, police and medics said.

Eight car bombs in mainly Shia districts of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killed at least 20 people on Monday, police and medics said.

Two car bombs hit Basra, a predominantly Shia southern city 420 km southeast of Baghdad. The first struck the Hananiya neighbourhood, near a busy market and restaurants, and the second was detonated inside a bus terminal in Saad Square, police and medics said. Eleven people were killed. More than 700 people were killed in April by a UN count, the highest figure in almost five years. Relations are coming under more strain by the day from the increasingly sectarian conflict in neighbouring Syria.

“We were manning a checkpoint when suddenly a group of militants in many vehicles surrounded us and opened fire. Seven of my colleagues were killed instantly,” said a policeman at the site.

In Rawa, 260 km northwest of Baghdad, gunmen attacked police checkpoints, the house of a member of the provincial council and a police chief's residence, killing three policemen and wounding two others, police sources said.

The attacks took place in the Sunni heartland of Anbar, where gunmen on Saturday ambushed and kidnapped 10 policemen near the provincial capital of Ramadi, and four members of a government-backed Sunni militia fighters were killed near Falluja city.

When Sunni-Shia bloodshed was at its height in 2006-07, Anbar, which shares a border with Syria, was in the grip of Al Qaeda's local affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, which has regained strength in recent months.

Minority Sunnis, embittered by Shia dominance since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by US-led forces in 2003, have been staging street protests against Shia Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki since December.

A bloody government raid on a Sunni protest camp in Hawija last month ignited a surge of violence.

Monthly death tolls are well below those of 2006-07, when they sometimes topped 3,000, but more than 700 were killed in April by a UN count, the highest figure in almost five years.

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