Attacks across Iraq, including more than a dozen car bombs, killed at least 46 people on Sunday while the head of Baghdad’s provincial council escaped an assassination attempt on his convoy.
The violence was the latest in months of unrelenting bloodshed, the country’s worst since 2008, which has sparked concern Iraq is slipping back into the all-out sectarian war of previous years that killed tens of thousands.
Authorities have imposed tough restrictions on movement in the capital and elsewhere, and carried out wide-ranging operations against militants, but insurgents have pressed their attacks.
On Sunday, they struck in more than a dozen towns and cities, with at least 17 car bombs, killing 46 people and wounding more than 130 overall.
The deadliest violence was in and around the city of Hilla, the predominantly Shiite capital of Babil province south of Baghdad, where four car bombs killed 19 people, police and medics said.
“I saw many people with burns, and people who were on fire, they were screaming for help,” said Sajjad al-Amari, a 22-year-old witness to one car bombing on the outskirts of Hilla.
Another witness, Karrar Ahmed, told AFP he saw “many shop owners who were thrown to the floor, many were killed and wounded, and they were lying on the ground, among the goods from their shops.”
On Saturday, a suicide bomber at a funeral near Mosul, Iraq’s main northern city, killed 27 people and wounded dozens, and violence in the past week alone has claimed more than 200 lives.
Authorities insist a campaign targeting militants is yielding results, claiming to have captured hundreds of alleged fighters and killed dozens, with security forces apparently having dismantled several insurgent training camps and bomb-making sites.
But the government has faced criticism for not doing more to defuse Sunni Arab anger over alleged ill-treatment at the hands of the Shiite-led authorities.
Last week, an Al-Qaeda front group claimed responsibility for a spate of car bombs that targeted Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and left 50 dead.
The surge in violence comes as the government grapples with a prolonged political stalemate, with no significant legislation passed since March 2010 parliamentary elections.