A wave of car bombings across Baghdad's Shiite neighbourhoods and in the southern city of Basra killed at least 40 people today, striking at market places and crowded bus stops during the busy morning hours, officials said.
The attacks are the latest in a recent spike of bombings that has hit both Sunni and Shiite civilian targets over the past week. The bloodshed has raised fears of a return to the widespread sectarian violence of 2006-2007 that brought the country to the edge of civil war.
In the Iraqi capital, nine car bombs went off at bus stops, open-air markets and in the streets of Shiite areas, killing 27 people and wounding 116, according to police officials.
The deadliest attacks came in the northern Sabi al-Boor neighbourhood and in Baghdad's eastern suburb of Kamaliya. Seven people were killed in each of those attacks.
In the southern city of Basra, two car bombs one near a restaurant and the other at the city's main bus station killed at least 13 and wounded 40, according to the provincial police spokesman, Colonel Abdul-Karim al-Zaidi, and the head of city's health directorate, Riadh Abdul-Amir.
The blast at the Basra bus station ripped through food stalls that serve falafel and eggs to travellers. Slippers lay scattered on the bloodstained pavement.
A Basra resident, Talib Dakhil, said he was at the station when the explosion went off. "This will not discourage us from continuing out life," he said. "We will continue challenging terrorism, whatever happens."
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts but such large-scale bombings bear the hallmarks of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Hospital officials in Baghdad and Basra confirmed the casualty tolls. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media.
In Baghdad, Malik Ibrahim blamed the government and political parties for the bloodshed and the lack of security in the country.
"How long do we have to continue living like this, with all the lies from the government," asked the 23-year-old Baghdad resident. "Whenever they say they have reached a solution, the bombings come back stronger than before."
"We're fed up with them and we can't tolerate this anymore," he added.