A wave of insurgent attacks killed at least 22 people and wounded dozens in central and northern Iraq on Thursday, the latest series of persistent strikes aimed at undermining the government's authority.
One of the bloodiest blows came around midday, when a car bomb struck near the local security forces headquarters in the northern city of Daqouq. As police rushed to the scene, a roadside bomb exploded, killing seven policemen. Another 35 people were hurt.
More than 100 people have been killed in violence across the country since the start of August, showing that insurgents led by al-Qaeda's Iraqi franchise remain a lethal force eight months after the last U.S. troops left the country.
Thursday's carnage began with a predawn attack against the house of a military officer. Militants planted four bombs around his house near the northern city of Kirkuk, according to the city's police commander Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir. The officer escaped unharmed, but his brother was killed and six other family members were wounded.
Hours later, a bomb in a parked car exploded near a string of restaurants, killing one and wounding 15, Qadir said. The blast seriously damaged the eateries' storefronts, scattering shattered glass and debris across the sidewalk.
Another parked car bomb targeting a police patrol followed, injuring two policemen and two civilian bystanders.
A couple hours later, two car bombs exploded simultaneously in a parking lot near a complex of government offices in the city's north, injuring four people.
Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, is home to a combustible mix of Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Turkomen. They all claim rights to the city and the oil-rich lands around it. Daqouq, the site of the midday blast, is about 19 miles south of the city.
In Baghdad's northeastern and mostly Shiite neighborhood of Husseiniyah, a parked car erupted in an explosion that killed seven people. Another 31 people were injured, two police officers said.
Just north of the capital, in the Sunni city of Taji, yet another parked car bomb went off next to a passing police patrol, killing two civilians who were standing nearby. Seven people, including police and civilian bystanders, were wounded, police said.
Some 40 miles west of Baghdad, militants in speeding cars opened fire on a police patrol in the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, killing four policemen and injuring three others, a police officer said.
Health officials in nearby hospitals confirmed the causality figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information to journalists.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Thursday's attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda's Iraqi branch. It has said it aims to reclaim areas from which it was routed by the U.S. and its local allies.
The violence comes a day after militants staged attacks in northern Iraq that left 13 people dead, including 10 killed when bombs exploded shortly before the sunset meal that ends the daylong fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
The al-Qaida offshoot, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, has for years had a hot-and-cold relationship with the global terror network's leadership.
Both shared the goal of targeting the U.S. military in Iraq and, to an extent, undermining the Shiite government that replaced Saddam Hussein's regime. But al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri distanced themselves from the Iraqi militants in 2007 for also killing Iraqi civilians instead of focusing on Western targets.
Generally, al-Qaeda in Iraq does not launch attacks or otherwise operate beyond Iraq's borders. But in early 2012, al-Zawahri urged Iraqi insurgents to support the Sunni-based uprising in neighboring Syria against President Bashar Assad, an Alawite. The sect is a branch of Shiite Islam.