Violence spirals in Iraq; 76 dead

BAGHDAD - Bombs ripped through Sunni areas in Baghdad and surrounding areas Friday, killing at least 76 people in the deadliest day in Iraq in more than eight months. The major spike in sectarian bloodshed heightened fears the country could again be veering toward civil war.

The attacks followed two days of bombings targeting Shiites, including bus stops and outdoor markets, with a total of 130 people killed since Wednesday.

Scenes of bodies sprawled outside a mosque and mourners killed during a funeral procession were reminiscent of some of the worst days of retaliatory warfare between the Islamic sects that peaked in 2006-2007 as U.S. forces battled extremists on both sides.

Tensions have been intensifying since Sunnis began protesting what they say is mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government, including random detentions and neglect. The protests, which began in December, have largely been peaceful, but the number of attacks rose sharply after a deadly security crackdown April 23 on a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq. - AP

2 bombs target Afghan enclave

KABUL, Afghanistan - Two bombs hidden in a motorcycle and a car exploded Friday evening inside an elite gated community linked to the family of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, killing at least nine people and wounding more than 70 near the southern city of Kandahar, an official said.

The blasts happened inside Aino Mina, a housing complex on the northern outskirts of the city that was developed in part by Mahmood Karzai, the president's younger brother.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but striking inside a powerful symbol of wealth and influence would be a publicity coup for the Taliban insurgency. Residents have special identification badges, and cars are typically searched before entering the gates. - AP

Mayor denies smoking crack

TORONTO - A video purportedly of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack has caused an uproar in Canada. Ford on Friday called the allegations "ridiculous."

The video has not been released publicly, and there was no way to verify whether it is authentic. Reports by gossip website Gawker and the Toronto Star said it was taken by a man who claimed he had sold crack to Ford. The Associated Press hasn't seen the video.

The conservative mayor of Canada's largest city said it was "another story with respect to the Toronto Star going after me. And that's all I've got to say for now." - AP