BAGHDAD, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Al-Qaida militant group in Iraq on Monday claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bomb attacks that mainly targeted Shiite districts in the capital Baghdad on Sunday.
The self-styled Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), al-Qaida front in the country, confirmed in a statement posted on an Islamic website that its fighters "carried out a new wave of simultaneous attacks inside the Shiite strongholds of this Sunni city (Baghdad)."
The statement said the attacks came "in response to what the Shiite-led government does, from raids, arrests, displacement and humiliation to seizing the lands and properties of Sunni neighborhoods."
A spate of simultaneous car bombs and roadside bombs struck crowded marketplaces and parking lots in Shiite districts in the eastern part of Baghdad late Sunday morning, killing a total of 21 people and wounding 125 others.
The authenticity of the statement could not be immediately verified.
Sunday's attacks came amid weeks of unrest and protests in Iraqi Sunni Arab provinces over complaints of marginalization and claims that the Shiite-dominated security forces were indiscriminately arresting and torturing Sunnis.
Tension remains high in the country although Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sought to defuse the crisis with Sunnis by offering to release hundreds of Sunni detainees and halt arrests made based on information from secret informers. He also lifted ban on some members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party and raised salaries for Sunni anti-Qaida militia.
Such deadly attacks are seen as an apparent attempt by insurgent groups to stir up sectarian strife among Iraqis, raising fears that the country could be brought back to widespread violence, particularly as it is trying to avoid the spillover of violence from neighboring Syria.
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