A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of Shia pilgrims passing through a mainly Sunni neighbourhood in Baghdad and another detonated his explosives inside a cafe north of the capital, the deadliest of several attacks across Iraq on Saturday that killed at least 66 people.

The killings, which also included attacks on journalists and anti-extremist Sunni fighters, are part of the deadliest surge in violence to hit Iraq in five years. The accelerating bloodshed is raising fears that the country is falling back into the spiral of violence that brought it to the edge of civil war in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The extent of the carnage from the evening attack on the pilgrims became clearer as midnight approached, when officials sharply revised the death toll upward to at least 42. Another 80 were reported injured.

The bomber detonated his explosives at a checkpoint in the northern neighbourhood of Azamiyah as the pilgrims en route to a prominent Shise shrine in the nearby neighbourhood of Kazimiyah, according to police officials. At least four policemen manning the checkpoint were among the dead, the officials said.

Azamiyah and the Shia district of Kazimiyah sit on opposite sides of the Tigris River that snakes through the Iraqi capital. Their proximity made them a key flashpoint for the widespread sectarian conflict that gripped Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s ouster and peaked in 2006 and 2007.

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