Shia Salughter
Iraqi residents help victims at the site of a bomb attack in Nassiriya, 300 km (185 miles) southeast of Baghdad January 5, 2012. REUTERS)

More than 50 people have been killed in a spate of bomb attacks in southern Iraq and Baghdad.

Officials say at least 30 Shia pilgrims died in a suicide attack near the southern city of Nasiriya.

Earlier, at least 29 people were killed in a wave of bomb attacks in Shia districts of the Iraqi capital.

The deaths come amid fears of a rise in sectarian tension following the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops in December.

The head of the provincial council in Nasiriya, Qusay al-Abadi, said at least 30 pilgrims were killed and more than 70 injured in the attack near Nasiriya. Reports suggest the pilgrims were walking to the holy city of Karbala.

The attacks in Baghdad occurred in the Sadr City and Kadhimiya districts on Thursday morning. The Interior Ministry said the bombs targeted groups of civilians, leading to the death of nearly 30 people.

"Political leaders fight each other for power, and we pay the price," Labourer Ahmed Khalaf told AFP at the site of one of the Sadr City explosions. "How is it our fault if al-Hashemi is wanted, or someone else is wanted?" he asked. "Why should we pay instead of them?"

The fresh wave of attacks comes as political turmoil between the majority Shiite-led government and the country's Sunni minority grows.

"We are in a battlefield with the terrorists and with the enemies of the political process, so we do not consider these [explosions] as a surprise for us or something strange. We are used to such [insurgent] operations," said Baghdad security operations centre spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki recently angered rivals when he asked parliament to remove his Sunni deputy, Saleh al-Mutlaq, and sought an arrest warrant for Sunni vice-president Tareq al-Hashemi on charges that he ran death squads.

Sunnis have complained of political marginalisation after Saddam Hussein's Sunni Ba'ath party was ousted by the 2003 US invasion.