Bombings blamed on Al Qaida in Iraq tore through market areas in Baghdad and outside the capital, killing nearly 60 people and shattering weeks of relative calm.
The bloodshed - in four cities as far north as Mosul and as far west as Ramadi - struck directly at US claims that the Sunni insurgency is waning and being replaced by Shiite militia violence as a major threat.
The deadliest blasts took place in Baqouba and Ramadi, two cities where the US military has claimed varying degrees of success in getting Sunnis to turn against Al Qaida.
In Baqouba, the Diyala provincial capital 35 miles (56.3 kilometres) northeast of the capital, a parked car exploded about 11:30 am in front of a restaurant across the street from the central courthouse and other government offices.
Many of the victims were on their way to the court, at the restaurant or in cars passing through the area. A man identifying himself as Abu Sarmad had just ordered lunch.
“I heard a big explosion and hot wind threw me from my chair to outside the restaurant,” he said from his hospital bed.
The force of the blast jolted the concrete barriers erected along the road to protect the courthouse, witnesses said.
At least 40 people were killed and 70 wounded, according to hospital officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorised to release the information.
The US military in northern Iraq gave a slightly lower toll, saying 35 Iraqi citizens were killed, including a policeman, and 66 wounded. It said the blast destroyed three buses and damaged 10 shops. (AP)
Bombings kill nearly 60 in Iraq