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Middle East

Wave of attacks across Iraq kills more than 100

Bombers and gunmen seen as linked to a battered but still lethal al-Qa'ida killed at least 100 people and injured more than 300 yesterday in a series of attacks on markets, a factory, checkpoints and other sites across Iraq.

The attacks in locations including Baghdad and towns in the south appeared to be aimed at showing Iraqis that Sunni Islamist insurgents were still a potent force, even after recent battlefield defeats.

"Despite strong strikes that broke al-Qa'ida, there are some cells still working, attempting to prove their existence and their influence," said Baghdad's security spokesman, Major General Qassim al-Moussawi. The attackers exploited the political disarray that followed an election on 7 March that produced no outright winner and pitted a cross-sectarian bloc backed by minority Sunnis against two major Shia-led coalitions.

In the bloodiest incident, two suicide car bombers drove into a textile factory as workers were ending a shift in the town of Hilla, 100 miles south of Baghdad. A third bomb exploded as police and medics arrived on the scene, causing further casualties. At least 45 people died, hospital and police officials said.

"This looks like a major campaign by the terrorists, not just in Hilla," said Babil province governor Salman al-Zarqani. The attacks were a reaction to efforts by Shia factions to form a governing coalition after the election, he said.

In the southern oil city of Basra, a car bomb exploded at a market, killing 21 people. Earlier, suicide bombers killed 13 people in a marketplace in al-Suwayra. At dawn in Baghdad, gunmen killed at least seven Iraqi soldiers and policemen when they attacked six checkpoints. Other attacks took the toll above 100.