A highly coordinated string of attacks have hit Iraq killing at least 36 and wounding more than 200.
The attacks, many involving car bombs, erupted less than a week before Iraqis in much of the country are scheduled to vote in the country’s first elections since the 2011 US troop withdrawal, testing security forces’ ability to prevent bloodshed.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but coordinated attacks are a favourite tactic of al Qaida.
Iraqi officials believe the insurgent group is growing stronger and increasingly coordinating with allies fighting to topple Syrian president Bashar Assad across the border. They say rising lawlessness on the Syria-Iraq frontier and cross-border cooperation with a Syrian group, the Nusra Front, has improved the militants’ supply of weapons and foreign fighters.
The attacks were unusually broad in scope, striking not just Baghdad but also the western Sunni city of Fallujah, the ethnically contested oil-rich city of Kirkuk and towns in the predominantly Shiite south. Other attacks struck north of the capital, including the former al-Qaida stronghold of Baqouba and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.
The deadliest attacks were in Baghdad, where 15 people were killed. All occurred at around 9am local time.
In the eastern suburbs of Kamaliya, a parked car bomb exploded in a bus station, killing four and wounding 13.
Two more parked car bombs went off on the road that leads to Baghdad International Airport and killed three people, including a bodyguard of a Shiite MP whose convoy was passing by.
Four civilians were killed and 15 wounded when an explosion tore through a market and a bus station in the south-western Umm al-Maalif neighbourhood. A roadside bomb went off in the commercial Karrada neighbourhood, killing two and wounding 15, while another parked car bomb explosion killed two and wounded nine in western Shurta neighbourhood. Five policemen were wounded when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb in eastern Baladiyat neighbourhood.
In and around the ethnically-mixed northern city of Kirkuk, three parked car bombs went off simultaneously – one in an Arab district, one in a Kurdish one, and one in a Turkomen district- killing four civilians and wounding 18. Outside the city, three other parked car bombs killed five and wounded 16.
Two of them targeted the house of a Shiite candidate for the provincial elections, but was not harmed.
Kirkuk, about 180 miles from Baghdad, is home to a mix of ethnic groups with competing claims to the oil-rich region.
In the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, the mayhem began around 6.30am when a suicide bomber drove an explosives-packed car into a police checkpoint, killing two policemen and wounding six others.
About a half hour later, in the town of Mussayab south of Baghdad, a parked car bomb went off in an open market, killing four civilians and wounding 13.
Drive-by shooters shot and killed a police officer in his car in the town of Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of the capital.
Two more civilians were killed and 14 were wounded when two parked car bombs exploded in the city of Nasiriyah.
One police officer and 13 other people wounded in two separate attacks in the north-eastern Diyala province. Five civilians were wounded in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit when two parked car bombs exploded.
And near the northern city of Mosul, a policeman was killed and two others were wounded while trying to defuse a car bomb. Gunmen also killed a soldier at an army checkpoint in the city.