Simultaneous early morning attacks across Iraq killed at least 60 people and wounded dozens more yesterday, in one of the bloodiest days of violence since US troops pulled out in December.
The attacks, which appeared to pitch al-Qa'ida-linked Sunni Muslim insurgents against Shias, raised fears of a return to the widespread sectarian carnage that tore Iraq apart and cost thousands of lives in 2006 and 2007.
The violence breaks weeks of relative calm as the Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Sunni leaders have sought to resolve a political crisis that threatened to unravel their power-sharing agreement following the US withdrawal.
At least 32 people were killed in blasts in Baghdad, where 10 explosions tore through mainly Shia neighbourhoods during rush hour.
"We were sitting at a restaurant having soup for breakfast when the bomb exploded. I lost consciousness and then saw smoke and dust when I came to. I saw people and body parts everywhere," said Ahmed Kadhim, a police officer.
Mr Kadhim suffered shrapnel wounds when a car bomb exploded near a restaurant, killing six people and wounding 18, in Baghdad's northern Kadhimiya district.
The interior ministry blamed al-Qa'ida and affiliated armed groups for the attacks it said were an attempt to show that Iraq's security situation remained unstable.
The blasts hit just weeks before Baghdad plans to host an Arab League summit.