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Iraq attacks kill 3 boys on way to school, 5 others in mainly Sunni areas
BAGHDAD (AP) ' Three schoolboys were among at least eight people killed in Iraq on Tuesday in the latest in a wave of attacks to hit the country since American troops pulled out.
The attacks, some of which targeted security forces, struck predominantly Sunni areas north of the capital. They followed deadly car bomb blasts the evening before, and pushed to more than 100 the number of Iraqis killed in less than a week.
Many of the earlier attacks in recent days targeted Iraq's Shiite majority, raising fears of a serious outbreak of sectarian violence following the withdrawal of U.S. troops last month. They accented a government crisis along sectarian lines.
Large-scale sectarian fighting pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006-7. Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias continue to operate in the country.
The increase in violence comes as Iraq's leaders remain locked in a political crisis that is stoking tensions between the Shiite majority now in power and the country's Sunnis, who benefited most from ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's rule.
Tuesday's youngest victims were the three boys, nine and 10 years old. They were hit by a roadside bomb on their way to school near Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, police and hospital officials said.
Northwest of the capital, two agriculture ministry workers were killed and a third was wounded when a bomb stuck to their car exploded in Shurqat, about 155 miles (250 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad.
In the evening, gunmen ambushed an Iraqi army checkpoint in the former al-Qaida stronghold of Mosul, killing two soldiers. Attackers elsewhere in the city shot and killed a police officer from a speeding car, officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
The leaders of Iraq's rival sects have been locked in a standoff since last month, when the Shiite-dominated government called for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi's arrest on terrorism charges, just as the last American troops were completing their withdrawal from the country.
Al-Hashemi, Iraq's highest ranking Sunni politician, remains holed up in the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the north, out of reach of state security forces.
The prime minister of neighboring Turkey urged Iraq's leaders Tuesday to ease sectarian tensions. Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they would be held responsible for bloodshed in the event of a civil war.
Erdogan said Iraqi leaders who pave the way for a sectarian conflict would be "condemned to be remembered as the devil."
Associated Press writers Bushra Juhi and Adam Schreck contributed to this report.