What had been a relatively quiet start to the New Year in Iraq ended Sunday with a string of violent attacks.
The day's deadliest bombing took place in central Baghdad, where a suicide bomber threw himself into a group of soldiers and police at a holiday commemoration celebrating the Iraqi army. Police say three Iraqi soldiers tried to subdue the man, but the blast of his explosive vest killed them and at least nine other people.
Later on, a bomb hidden in a parked car killed at least three people outside a popular restaurant in northeast Baghdad.
Earlier Sunday, gunmen killed a Shiite Arab leader in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Shaab. Sheikh Ismaiel Abbas was said to be trying to establish an armed volunteer group with U.S. military funding.
Most of the anti-insurgent groups that have allied themselves with the U.S. recently have been Sunni Arabs, but this one would have been Shiite, designed to resist Shiite militias operating in the area.
In the northern city of Mosul, attackers targeted Christian churches and a convent. Police say that a bomb damaged the altar area of one church, injuring at least four people. A second bomb went off between the Church of the Virgin Mary and a nearby convent, damaging both buildings, but apparently causing no injuries.
Meanwhile, U.S. military officials announced the deaths of two more American soldiers, bringing the number of combat deaths so far this year to five. One soldier died Sunday and three were injured when a bomb hit their patrol in south Baghdad. The officials also announced the death of an American soldier that took place Saturday in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad.