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Several explosions kill 58 in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- Eighteen explosions, mainly from car bombs, ripped through marketplaces, parking lots, a cafe and rush-hour crowds yesterday, killing 58 people and pushing the country's death toll for July toward the 700 mark, officials said.

The bombings are part of a wave of bloodshed that has swept the country since April, killing 3,000 people and worsening the strained ties between the Sunni minority and the Shia-led government. The scale and pace of the violence, unseen since the darkest days of the country's insurgency, have fanned fears of a return to the widespread sectarian bloodletting that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The month's death toll is now 680, according to an Associated Press count. Most of those have come during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of dawn-to-dusk fasting that began July 10, making it Iraq's bloodiest since 2007.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for yesterday's attacks, but the Interior Ministry blamed al-Qaida's Iraqi branch and accused it of trying to widen the rift between Sunnis and Shias. -- AP

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