BAGHDAD — A barrage of car bomb and suicide bomb blasts rocked Baghdad and two northern communities Thursday, killing at least 51 people during a major holiday period and extending a relentless wave of bloodshed gripping the country.

The U.N. reported 979 people killed violently in Iraq last month.

More than 300 more people have died in attacks in Iraq so far this month, according to an Associated Press count.

The bulk of the recent blasts struck the Iraqi capital shortly after nightfall. Authorities reported seven car bomb explosions across Baghdad, including one near a playground that killed two children.

Iraq is weathering its deadliest outburst of violence since 2008, raising fears the country is returning to the widespread sectarian killing that pushed it to the brink of civil war in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The bloodshed began early Thursday when a suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden car among houses in an ethnic minority village in northern Iraq.

That attack, in the Shabak village of al-Mouafaqiyah near the restive city of Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, killed at least 15 and wounded 52, police said.

Another suicide bomber struck hours later, setting off an explosives belt inside a cafe in Tuz Khormato, killing three and wounding 28

The attacks struck as Muslims around the world this week mark the religious holiday of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice. It is often a time for family celebrations and outings.

The Baghdad explosions went off in quick succession as families were heading out to parks, coffee shops and restaurants in the evening, police said.