BAGHDAD Bombs striking Shiite neighborhoods, security forces and other targets across Iraq killed at least 26 people Sunday, officials said, in the latest instance of coordinated violence to take a sectarian bent and undermine confidence in the beleaguered government.
The deadliest attack came in the town of Taji, a former al Qaeda stronghold just north of Baghdad, where three explosive-rigged cars went off within minutes of each other. Police said eight people died and 28 were injured in the back-to-back blasts that began around 7:15 a.m.
In all, at least 94 people were wounded in the wave of attacks that stretched from the restive but oil-rich city of Kirkuk in Iraq's north to the southern Shiite town of Kut.
Spokesmen for the government and Baghdad's military command could not immediately be reached for comment, and no one claimed responsibility for the violence immediately.
Car bombs however are a hallmark of al Qaeda in Iraq. The Sunni militant network has vowed to take back areas of the country, like Taji, from which it was pushed before U.S. troops withdrew last December.
Shiite lawmaker Hakim al-Zamili, a member of parliament's security and defense committee, said the attacks were a sign al Qaeda "is still in business." He said a deadly weekend prison break in Tikrit in which many al Qaeda-linked convicts escaped, likely boosted the terror network's morale and spurred Sunday's assault.
"Al Qaeda leaders have no intention of leaving this country or letting Iraqis live in peace," al-Zamili said. "Thus, we should expect more attacks in the near future. The situation in Iraq is still unstable ... and repetition of such attacks shows that our security forces are still unqualified to deal with the terrorists," he added.
Shortly after the Taji attacks, police said a suicide bomber set off his explosives-packed car in the Shiite neighborhood of Shula in northwest Baghdad. One person was killed and seven wounded. Police could not immediately identify the target.
"So many people were hurt. A leg of a person was amputated," lamented Shula resident Naeem Frieh. "What have those innocent people done to deserve this?"
And in Baghdad's bustling Karradah neighborhood, a parked car laden with explosives went off next to a police patrol, killing a police officer and a civilian, other officials said. Eight other people were injured. The blast was followed minutes later by another parked car bomb as people gathered, killing three civilians and injuring 12 others, they added. Secondary bomb blasts targeting those coming to help the wounded are a common insurgent tactic.
An Associated Press cameraman was knocked to the ground in the second explosion and an AP photographer was slightly injured.
Elsewhere in the country, another suicide bomber drove a minibus into a security checkpoint in Kut, located 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Baghdad. Three police officers were killed and five wounded, Maj. Gen. Hussein Abdul-Hadi Mahbob said.
And in Iraq's north, another policeman was killed when security forces were trying to defuse a car bomb parked on the main highway between the cities of Kirkuk and Tuz Khormato, said Kirkuk police chief Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir. A second policeman was wounded in the blast, Qadir said. Kirkuk is about 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad.