BAGHDAD (AP) — Bombs striking Shiite neighborhoods, security forces and other targets across Iraq killed at least 19 people Sunday, officials said. It was the latest string of coordinated bombings in multiple Iraqi cities, a tactic used by insurgents apparently aimed at rekindling widespread sectarian conflict and undermining public confidence in the beleaguered government.
The deadliest attack came in the town of Taji, a former al-Qaida 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 68 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.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the violence, but car bombs are a hallmark of al-Qaida in Iraq. The militant network has vowed to take back areas of the country, like Taji, from which the Sunni insurgent network was pushed before U.S. troops withdrew last December.
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?"
Health officials in Taji and Baghdad, respectively, confirmed the casualties. All officials in both attacks spoke anonymously as they were not authorized to release information.
Within an hour, 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.
At around 10:30 a.m., another parked car bomb went off next to a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims in the town of Madain, killing three Iraqis and injuring 11 others included seven Iranians, another police officer and health official said. Madain is mainly Sunni area located 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Baghdad.
In the town of Balad Ruz, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad a parked car bomb targeted a passing police patrol, killing two policemen and injuring seven others, a police officer and health official said. And in the nearby town of Khan Bani Saad, 15 kilometers (nine miles) northeast of Baghdad, yet another parked car bomb exploded near a market and killed one civilian and injured nine others, they added.
Violence has dropped since the height of Iraq's bloodshed a few years ago, but Iraqi forces have failed to stop the attacks that continue to claim lives almost daily.