DHAKA: Insurgents in Iraq unleashed a relentless wave of attacks from before dawn until late at night on Thursday, killing dozens and wounding many more in a deadly show of force.
The death toll was at least 70, with some sources reporting that as many as 27 people were killed outside a cafe in the Zafraniya district of Baghdad. At least 16 people were reportedly killed outside an ice-cream shop in the Sadr City neighbourhood of the capital.
It was the deadliest day in three weeks; more than 150 people have already been killed in violence this month.
Thursday`s attacks began with a pre-dawn raid on the house of a military officer.
Attackers planted four bombs around his house near the northern city of Kirkuk, according to the city`s police commander, brigadier general Sarhad Qadir. The officer escaped unharmed, but his brother was killed and six other family members were wounded.
Hours later, a bomb in a parked car exploded near a string of restaurants, killing one and wounding 15, Qadir said.
The blast seriously damaged the eateries` storefronts, scattering shattered glass and debris across the sidewalk.
Another parked car bomb targeting a police patrol followed, injuring two policemen and two civilian bystanders.
Kirkuk, 290km north of Baghdad, is home to a combustible mix of Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Turkomen. They all claim rights to the city and the oil-rich lands around it.
In Baghdad`s northeastern and mostly Shia neighbourhood of Husseiniyah, a parked car erupted in an explosion that killed seven people and wounded more than 30. Then, around midday, another car bomb struck near the headquarters of local security forces in the northern city of Daqouq. As police rushed to the scene, a roadside bomb exploded, killing seven of them.
Shortly before sunset, gunmen in cars opened fire on an Iraqi army checkpoint near the town of Mishada, killing seven soldiers and wounding eight. Mishada is 30km north of Baghdad.
Around 10pm, a suicide bomber walked into a tea shop and blew himself up in Tal Afar, some 420km northwest of the capital. Mayor Abdul-Aal Abbas and local police said that the explosion killed seven and wounded 10.
And in Kut, a largely Shia city southeast of Baghdad, a parked car exploded near a market and several restaurants, killing 7 and wounding 25 people, police and hospital officials said.
Iraqi officials are tightening security ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan this weekend. Authorities are seeking to thwart a possible upsurge in violence as crowds gather in public places such as parks, shrines and mosques to mark the occasion.
"Our security forces have received intelligence that terrorist groups are planning and preparing for attacks during and after Eid," said Abdul-Karim Tharib, the head of provincial security in Baghdad. "We... have taken all necessary measures to foil any terrorist attacks during Eid."
The security measures will include an increased number of checkpoints and road closures near government offices, parks and shrines, an interior ministry official said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Thursday`s attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda`s Iraq branch.
It has declared its aim to reclaim areas from which it was routed by the US and its local allies.
More than 100 people have been killed in violence across the country since the start of the month, showing that the fighters remain a lethal force eight months after the last US troops left the country.
BDST: 1116 HRS, AUG 17, 2012
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