Story by the Associated Press; curated by Zach Noble.

BAGHDAD (AP) — A car bomb exploded outside a liquor store in northern Iraq overnight, killing at least 12 civilians, a senior police officer said Sunday.

(Content warning: graphic images)

Iraqi security forces inspect the site of a car bomb explosion that targeted an alcohol shop on May 24, 2014 in the Wasati neighbourhood in southern Kirkuk, killing at least seven people and wounded 17. The evening explosion came amid a protracted surge in bloodshed that has left more than 3,700 people dead so far this year, fuelling fears Iraq is slipping back into the all-out conflict that plagued it in 2006 and 2007. Mariwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty Images

The blast struck the northern oil-rich and ethnically-mixed city of Kirkuk, deputy police chief Maj. Gen. Torhan Abdul-Rahman Youssef said. Youssef said that the blast in the western al-Wasiti neighborhood wounded 29.

Kirkuk is located 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad.

GRAPHIC CONTENT Iraqi men stand next to a body following a car bomb explosion that targeted an alcohol shop on May 24, 2014 in the Wasati neighbourhood in southern Kirkuk, killing at least seven people and wounded 17. Mariwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty Images

Militants often target night clubs, liquor stores and brothels. They want to impose a strict interpretation of Islam in Iraq.

GRAPHIC CONTENT Iraqi security forces stand next to bodies lying on the ground as they inspect the site of a car bomb explosion that targeted an alcohol shop on May 24, 2014 in the Wasati neighbourhood in southern Kirkuk, killing at least seven people and wounded 17.  Mariwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty Images

The attack comes as Iraq’s Shiite-led government is struggling to contain a surge in sectarian violence unseen since the country was pushed to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007 after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Sadaam Hussein. According to the United Nations, 8,868 people were killed in Iraq last year.

The uptick in violence also comes as the country’s political rivals are trying to form a new government after parliamentary elections April 30. Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc emerged as the biggest winner, securing 92 seats in the 328-member parliament, but it failed to gain the majority needed to govern alone.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter