At least 14 people were killed and 22 injured in fresh attacks across Iraq, police said Thursday. The attacks, the worst in weeks, shattered a brief period of relative calm.

Three bomb blasts rocked the southern city of Najaf, home to some of Shiite Islam’s highest educational institutions and shrines, within minutes of each other, police told Baghdad’s Aswat al—Iraq news agency.

One of the blasts targeted a street leading to an important Shiite Muslim shrine, and two others hit a crowded vegetable market, together killing at least 12 people and wounding 20 more.

That morning, Iraqi security forces had arrested a man suspected of being a “senior” al-Qaeda militant at the entrance to the Shiite Muslim holy city of Karbala.

Police there told the German Press Agency dpa that a tip from intelligence agencies had allowed them to catch Khaled al-Khanfisi, wanted by police on suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks in Iraq.

Police said al-Khanfisi confessed “to committing crimes against civilians and soldiers and police” in the nearby city of Hilla. Police did not specify what attacks al-Khanfisi had confessed to.

A Dec 24 bomb blast in Hilla killed at least 14 Shiite pilgrims, including Babil provincial council member Nama Hamza al—Bakr, and injured 70 more during the Shiite holiday of Ashoura.

Security has been particularly tight ahead in Karbala as police prepare for an annual pilgrimage over the next few days. The city is the site of several important Shiite shrines.

To the north of the country, in the troubled city of Mosul, gunmen killed a civilian man and woman in the city’s al—Arabi neighbourhood.

Another civilian was shot and injured in the neighbourhood of al—Jamaiya al—Thaqafiya, and a soldier was injured by a roadside bomb in Mosul district of al—Hadba, police told dpa.

Despite successive security pushes that police say have netted hundreds of suspected insurgents in the past year, insurgents continue to launch near—daily attacks, with deadly effect.

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