BAGHDAD -- A bomb struck a crowded coffee shop late Friday in the ethnically disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing at least 38 and wounding more than two dozen in the latest in a string of bloody attacks pounding Iraq since the start of the holy month of Ramadan this week.
Iraq is being rocked by its deadliest and most sustained wave of bloodshed in half a decade. More than 2,600 people have been killed since the start of April, raising fears that the country is once again edging toward the brink of civil war a decade after Saddam Hussein was toppled in the U.S.-led invasion.
The blast occurred in the Classico Cafe in southern Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, as patrons were enjoying tea and water pipes hours after the sunset meal that breaks the daylong Ramadan fast, police said.
Kirkuk is home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen -- all with competing claims to the oil-rich area. The Kurds want to incorporate it into their self-ruled region in Iraq's north, but Arabs and Turkomen are opposed. Sunni Arab extremists, aiming to exacerbate ethnic tensions in the region, are believed to be behind frequent attacks in the area that pose a challenge to Iraq's Shia-dominated government.
In addition to those killed, the attack wounded 26, a police officer and a hospital official said.
Another suicide bomber and a shooting elsewhere in the country killed five members of the security forces, bringing Friday's toll to 43.