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Residents collect their belongings amidst the rubble of destroyed houses following a series of bomb attacks in the town of Taji, north of Baghdad.
Residents collect their belongings amidst the rubble of destroyed houses following a series of bomb attacks in the town of Taji, north of Baghdad.

Iraq has its deadliest day in two years

Al Qaeda blamed after terrorists' local leader vows new offensive in escalating violence since the last US ground troops left six months ago.

BAGHDAD // Iraqi insurgents killed 107 people and wounded more than 268 yesterday in at least 22 coordinated gun and bomb attacks in more than 13 cities.

The worst bloodshed in more than two years came a day after 20 Iraqis were killed in bomb blasts, amid steadily escalating violence since the last US ground troops left six months ago.

Yesterday's attacks on mainly Shiite targets also renewed doubts about the ability of the Shiite-led government to maintain security, and underscored the determination of the insurgents to prove they are not a spent force.

No group claimed responsibility but a senior Iraqi security official blamed Al Qaeda in Iraq. "Al Qaeda is trying to push Iraq to the verge of Shiite-Sunni war," he said. "They want things to be as bad as in Syria."

On Sunday the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Bakir Al Baghdadi, declared a new offensive by Sunnis against the country's Shiite leaders. "We are returning again to dominate territories we used to dominate, as well as more," he said.

The death toll in yesterday's violence was the worst since May 10, 2010, when 119 died in a series of nationwide attacks.

Yesterday's assaults began at 5am, just as many Iraqis were getting to sleep after staying up most of the night to observe Ramadan, in the provinces of Baghdad, Diyala, Salahuddin, Kirkuk, Anbar, Mosul and Diwaniyah.

In one raid, gunmen using assault rifles and hand grenades killed at least 16 soldiers at an army post near Dhuluiya, 70 kilometres north of the capital.

In Taji, 20km north of Baghdad, there were six explosions including a car bombing near a housing complex. A seventh blast there caused carnage among police who had arrived at the scene. In all, 32 people were killed, including 14 police, with 48 wounded, 10 of them police.

Two car bombs struck near a government building in the vash Shiite swath of Sadr City in Baghdad, and in Hussainiya on the outskirts of the capital, killing a total of 21 people and wounding 73.

The bloodshed reminded many Iraqis of the worst days of sectarian slaughter in 2006 and 2007. "I ask the government if security forces are capable of keeping control," Ahmed Salim shouted at the scene of a car bombing in Kirkuk. "With all these bloody bombs and innocent people killed, the government should reconsider its security plans."

* Reuters and the Associated Press with additional reporting by Nizar Latif in Baghdad

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