The quick succession of blasts within hours of each other suggested that Sunni militants are regrouping to launch their deadliest form of attack — suicide explosions, often against Shiites — in regions further away from Baghdad, beyond the edges of a three-week old U.S. offensive on the capital's northern flank.
The U.S. military on Saturday also reported that six American servicemembers were killed in fighting in Baghdad and western Anbar province over two days, reflecting the increased U.S. death toll that has come with the new offensives.
Saturday's blast, at around 8:30 am, destroyed several mud homes in the village of Armili, and victims had to be transported in farmers' pickup trucks to the nearest health facility, in Tuz Khormato, 27 miles to the north, said Capt. Soran Ali of the Tuz Khormato police.
Saleh Ali, a medic at Tuz Khormato hospital, said 25 dead and 100 wounded were brought to the facility. Residents of the village said more victims remained trapped under destroyed houses and shops, and doctors said many of the wounded were in critical condition, meaning the toll could rise.
"Some are still under the rubble with no one to help them. There are no ambulances to evacuate the victims," said Haitham Hadad, a resident who evacuated his wounded cousin in his car to to Tuz Khormato hospital. Dozens of weeping relatives of victims crowded the hospital, searching for loved ones.
At the market, "I saw destruction everywhere, dozens of cars destroyed, about 15 shops and many houses, even some more than 700 meters (yards) away," said Haitham Yalman, whose daughter and sister were wounded.
The village, 100 miles north of Baghdad is mainly made up of Shiite Turkomen, an ethnic minority that is spread across north-central Iraq, though most of its members are Sunni Muslim.
The night before, a suicide bomber detonated a booby trapped car at around 9:30 pm outside a cafe near a market stocking Iranian goods in the Shiite Kurdish village of Ahmad Marif, killing 26 and wounding 33, said an official at the joint security coordination committee of Diyala province, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The village — 85 miles northeast of Baghdad in a remote corner of Diyala province — is home to about 30 Kurdish families who had been expelled under Saddam Hussein's rule and returned after his fall. Many Kurds in the area are Shiite Muslims.
A half hour after that blast, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives belt in a funeral tent in the Shiite village of Zargosh, west of Ahmad Marif. The blast killed 22 people and wounded 15 others, said the head of Diyala provincial council, Ibrahim Bajilan, and a police official in the provincial capital of Baqouba, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.