A wave of seemingly synchronized bomb and gun attacks swept Iraq on Monday. With scores killed throughout the country, the death toll was the highest seen so far in 2012. NBC's Kristy Breetzke reports.
Updated at 9:40 a.m. ET: BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A wave of bombings and an attack on an Iraqi military base killed more than 100 people on Monday. The death toll made it the bloodiest day of the year in the country, The Associated Press reported.
In addition to those killed, at least 268 other people were wounded by bombings and shootings in Shiite areas of Baghdad, the town of Taji to the north, the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul and many other places, hospital and police sources told Reuters.
The bloodshed, which coincided with an intensifying of the conflict in neighboring Syria, pointed up the deficiencies of the Iraqi security forces, which failed to prevent insurgents from striking in multiple locations across the country.
No group has claimed responsibility for the wave of assaults but a senior Iraqi security official blamed the local wing of al-Qaida, made up of Sunni Muslim militants bitterly hostile to the Shiite-led government, which is friendly with Iran.
"Recent attacks are a clear message that al-Qaida in Iraq is determined to spark a bloody sectarian war," the official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
"With what's going on in Syria, these attacks should be taken seriously as a potential threat to our country. Al-Qaida is trying to push Iraq to the verge of Shiite-Sunni war," he said. "They want things to be as bad as in Syria."
'Innocent people killed'
The last two days of attacks shattered a two-week lull in violence in the run-up to the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, which started in Iraq on Saturday.
Sectarian slaughter peaked in 2006-2007 but deadly attacks have persisted while political tensions among Iraq's main Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions have increased since U.S. troops completed their withdrawal in December.
"I ask the government if security forces are capable of keeping control," a man named Ahmed Salim shouted angrily at the scene of a car bomb in Kirkuk. "With all these bloody bombs and innocent people killed, the government should reconsider its security plans," he told Reuters Television.
Trail of destruction
The security forces themselves were often the targets or victims of the assaults perpetrated across Iraq.
Gunmen using assault rifles and hand grenades killed at least 16 soldiers in an attack on an army post near Dhuluiya, 45 miles north of Baghdad, police and army sources said.
In Taji, 12 miles north of Baghdad, six explosions, including a car bombing, occurred near a housing complex. A seventh blast there caused carnage among police who had arrived at the scene of the earlier ones. In all, 32 people were killed, including 14 police, with 48 wounded, 10 of them police.
Two car bombs struck near a government building in Sadr City, a vast, poor Shiite swathe of Baghdad, and in the mainly Shiite area of Hussainiya on the outskirts of the capital, killing a total of 21 people and wounding 73, police said.
Nine people, including six soldiers, were killed in attacks in the northern city of Mosul, police and army sources told Reuters.
In Kirkuk, five car bombs killed six people and wounded 17, while explosions and gun attacks on security checkpoints around the restive province of Diyala killed six people, including four soldiers and policemen, and wounded 30, police sources told Reuters.
Other deadly attacks occurred in the towns of Khan Bani Saad, Udhaim, Tuz Khurmato, Samarra and Dujail, all north of Baghdad, as well as in the southern city of Diwaniya.
The orchestrated spate of violence followed car bombs on Sunday in two towns south of Baghdad and in the Shiite shrine city of Najaf that killed a total of 20 people and wounded 80.
Last month was one of the bloodiest since the U.S. withdrawal, with at least 237 people killed and 603 wounded.
Iraq, whose huge desert province of Anbar, a Sunni heartland, borders Syria, is nervous about the impact of the conflict in its neighbor where mainly Sunni rebels are fighting to end President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite-dominated rule.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis took refuge in Syria from bloodshed that lasted for years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Last week the Iraqi government urged them to return home to escape the violence in Syria.
At least 80 buses laden with returning Iraqi refugees crossed the border last week, a U.N. spokeswoman said.
Iraq's Shiite-led government is also worried about the longer-term implications if Assad falls and Syria's majority Sunnis overthrow the supremacy of the president's Alawite sect, which traces its roots to Shiite Islam.
A sectarian struggle for control in post-Assad Syria could raise tensions across the border and damage Iraq's chances of overcoming its own formidable security and political challenges.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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