Serial blasts claim 103 lives in Iraq

Serial blasts claim 103 lives in Iraq

27 places attacked in 18 cities, say officials

An onslaught of bombings and shootings killed 103 people across Iraq on Monday, officials said, in the nation's deadliest day so far this year.

The attacks came days after the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq declared a new offensive and warned in a statement that the militant group is reorganising in areas from which it retreated before US troops left the country last December.

Officials said at least 214 people were wounded in 27 different attacks launched in 18 cities, shattering a relative calm which had held in the lead-up to the start on Saturday of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

“I heard explosions in the distance so I left my house and I saw a car outside,” said 40-year-old Taji resident Abu Mohammed, who added that police inspectors concluded the vehicle was a car bomb. “We asked the neighbours to leave their houses, but when they were leaving, the bomb went off.”

Abu Mohammed said he witnessed the deaths of an elderly woman carrying a newborn baby and of the policeman who had first concluded the car was packed with explosives.

Al-Qaeda has been seeking to re-assert its might in the security vacuum left by the departing Americans, seizing on Baghdad's fragmented government and the surge of Sunni rebels in neighbouring Syria to sow instability across Iraq.

US and Iraqi officials insist that the terror network’s Iraqi wing, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, is nowhere as strong as it was when the nation threatened to fall into civil war between 2006 and 2008, and the Iraqi government is better established.

“It was a thunderous explosion,” said Mohammed Munim, who was working at an Interior Ministry office that issues government ID cards to residents in Baghdad’s Shiite Sadr City neighbourhood when a car exploded outside. Sixteen people were killed in the single attack.

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