BAGHDAD — Shiite-dominated areas in southern and central Iraq were rocked Monday by car bomb explosions that killed at least 22 people and fueled fears that the country is sliding into a civil war.
The violence occurred as Iraqi security forces surrounded the Sunni cities of Ramadi and Fallouja demanding that the area’s tribes hand over those responsible for killing five Iraqi soldiers over the weekend. Authorities gave the tribes 48 hours.
The deadline passed, but Jaber Jabri, a member of parliament from Ramadi, said late Monday that a tentative deal had been reached to defuse the situation. He said a committee of military commanders, local officials and tribal figures would search for those thought to be responsible, and the tribes would remove their guns from the streets of Ramadi.
The army would be allowed to search specific areas for weapons but would not launch an attack, he said, adding, “I hope now the situation will get better.”
Fallouja and Ramadi, former hotbeds of the insurgency against American troops when they were in Iraq, have led a four-month protest movement against Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.
Politicians fear that an assault on Anbar province could be the beginning of a new sectarian conflict. A decision last week to storm a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq triggered a week of violence that left more than 200 people dead.
The bombings Monday — particularly in the city of Amarah, which has largely avoided such attacks — appeared aimed at jarring the country’s Shiite majority.
At least eight people were killed and 18 wounded in two car bombings in the southern city near a market where municipal employees gather before work, security officials said.
“The first exploded in a place where the cleaners used to gather every day,” said Ali Kadhim Raheem, who lives near the site of the blasts. “Some women serving breakfast were killed. Some shoppers were hurt. Several shops were destroyed.”
A car bomb also exploded in a market in the center of Mahmoudiya, just south of Baghdad, leaving four dead and 14 wounded, security officials said.
In the southern Shiite shrine city of Karbala, a car bomb blew up in a factory area, leaving two dead, officials said. Another car bomb exploded near a restaurant in Diwaniya, also in the south, killing eight people and wounding 25, officials said.
Many Shiites were alarmed last week by scenes of armed Sunni men battling Iraqi forces around the country and by the situation in Anbar, where tribal leaders announced Friday the formation of an army to defend the western province against the Shiite-led government. The next day, five soldiers were killed near the Sunni protest encampment in Ramadi, and the security forces demanded that the killers be apprehended.
With the country in crisis, the parliamentary speaker, Usama Nujaifi, called for the government to be dissolved and for a caretaker government to be formed ahead of early elections to save the country from civil war.