BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of Shiite pilgrims passing through a mainly Sunni neighborhood 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 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 when officials revised the death toll to at least 42. At least 80 were injured.

The bomber detonated his explosives at a checkpoint in the neighborhood of Azamiyah as the pilgrims made their way to a Shiite shrine in the neighborhood of Kazimiyah, according to police officials. At least four police officers working the checkpoint were among the dead, the officials said.

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


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Authorities closed the bridge between the neighborhoods after hundreds of Shiite pilgrims died in a 2005 stampede sparked by fears of a suicide bomber, and reopened it in 2008. Around the same time, another suicide bomber blew himself up in a cafe in the town of Balad, a largely Shiite town surrounded by Sunni communities about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad. Balad Mayor Malik Lefta said at least 13 people were killed and 22 were wounded in that attack.

He said the cafe was the same one hit by a deadly suicide bombing in August.

A hidden bomb also exploded inside a cafe in the religiously mixed Baghdad neighborhood of Baiyaa, killing three people and wounding 13, police said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the day's violence. Al-Qaida's Iraq arm often deploys suicide bombers and targets Shiite civilians.