"We will work to intensify the jihadist operations, by using all means, in order to hunt for these terrorists and strike their economic, social and political interests, and we will not exclude anybody who promotes or calls for terrorism," he said.
Under Saddam, Iraq's Sunni minority held a privileged position, while the Shiites were largely oppressed. But since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam, those dynamics have been flipped, and a Shiite-led government now holds power in Baghdad.
Attacks on Sunni mosques have become rare since the peak of the sectarian strife, which was ignited by the bombing of the Shiite al-Askari shrine in the city of Samarra in February 2006. That attack was blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq and set off retaliatory bloodshed between Sunni and Shiite extremists that left thousands of Iraqis dead and pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
The new wave of unrest rolling across Iraq now is worrying in part because of the country's recent past.
Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, warned in an opinion piece in the Washington Post on April 30 that the situation in Iraq has taken "a very dangerous turn" since last month's crackdown in Hawija.
He described the recent violence as reminiscent of the dark days in 2006. Al-Qaida's Iraq arm, he wrote, is regrouping in areas that Iraqi and American forces "cleared at enormous cost," and its ally Jabhat al-Nusra is "attempting to hijack the secular resistance" to Syria's Assad.
"These developments threaten not only to unravel the gains made since 2007, but also to energize the forces of violent extremism in the heart of the Arab world, already burning in Syria," Crocker said.
Ahmed Hussein Saleh, a Sunni resident of Baghdad, said the current political tension has contributed to the deteriorating security situation and the comeback of sectarianism.
"The politicians, Shiite militia leaders, and even al-Qaida, want to restart the sectarian war because it is the only way to keep the people divided and thus rule the country the way they want," said Saleh, who has decided recently not to let his two kids go outside the house on their own, fearing for their safety.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Col. Saad Maan Ibrahim said the ministry has taken extra precautions to try to secure mosques, including deploying more security forces and undercover policemen.
"The ministry is giving this issue top priority now because we are aware that this tactic has been used before in order to create a sectarian war among the Iraqi people, but they failed," Ibrahim told The Associated Press.
He said that an investigation is underway to determine which groups are behind the mosque attacks, and cautioned against jumping to any hasty conclusions.
"Basically, these attacks bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida, but we do not rule out the possibility that the militias from the other side might be behind this violence," he said.
At the Mohammed Fanadi al-Kubaisi mosque in western Baghdad, shards of glass litter the prayer hall nearly three weeks a bomb killed three people on April 26. At the front entrance, dozens of slippers and shoes are still neatly stored in the wooden shelves where worshippers left them before fleeing the in a panic.
The mosque's imam, Hussein Ali, who had just started into his Friday sermon when the bomb placed outside one of the windows blew up, said those who targeted the building "want to reignite the civil war among the people here."
"I am sure that God's revenge will fall upon them sooner or later," he said. "It is only a matter of time."
Associated Press writer Adam Schreck contributed to this report.
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