A car bomb ripped through a popular fruit and vegetable market north of Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 16 people as Iraqis searched for cut-price groceries.
The blast, which also wounded 25 people, struck in the predominantly Sunni Arab city of Samarra at about 6:45 pm (1545 GMT).
It came a day after a wave of nationwide violence — including a spate of bombings in the Iraqi capital — killed at least 75 people.
The attack was the latest in a surge of unrest, with more than 3,700 people killed so far this year, that has sparked concerns Iraq is headed back to the all-out bloodshed that left tens of thousands dead in 2006 and 2007.
It follows security operations targeting militants in Baghdad and to the north and west, though the government has faced charges of not dealing with the root causes of the country’s worst violence since 2008.
Thursday evening’s attack struck the Samarra market, locally known as the Mraydi, at a time when struggling Iraqis typically frequent it in order to take advantage of reduced prices as surplus stock is sold before closing.
In all, 16 people were killed, including three women and two children, and 25 people were wounded, a police officer and a doctor said.
The market, the city’s biggest grocery shopping area, lies in the Jiberia neighbourhood of eastern Samarra.
Attacks elsewhere in Iraq left three others dead — a soldier, a civilian and a militant who was shot dead as he was trying to plant a roadside bomb.
On Wednesday, at least 75 people were killed and more than 200 wounded in a wave of shootings and bombings across Iraq, with the violence mostly targeting the country’s Shiite Muslim majority.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest bloodshed.
Sunni militants linked to Al-Qaeda frequently trigger car bombs in the middle of crowded areas packed with civilians, ostensibly in a bid to undermine confidence in the Shiite-led authorities and security forces.
Iraq has seen a marked rise in the level of violence this year, coinciding with demonstrations by the Sunni Arab minority against alleged ill treatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government and security forces.
More than 600 people have already been killed so far this month, according to an AFP tally.
Diplomats and analysts have urged broad-reaching moves to tackle Sunni frustrations, which they say give militant groups room to recruit and carry out attacks, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has vowed to press on with an anti-militant campaign.
Officials say security forces have dismantled militant training camps and bomb-making sites, arrested hundreds of alleged insurgents and killed dozens of others in recent weeks.
In addition to persistent security problems, the government has also failed to provide adequate basic services such as electricity and clean water, and corruption is widespread.
Political squabbling has likewise paralysed the government, which has passed almost no major legislation in years.