Baghdad – Insurgents across Iraq launched their most significant and wide-ranging attacks in months on Monday, killing 68 people and wounding over 300, marking the most violent day in Iraq this year.
The violence touched nearly every region of the country, except for Kurdistan, and appeared to be aimed at security forces in both Sunni and Shiite areas.
In all, there were 37 attacks, more than double the daily average this year, nearing the level of violence at the height of the sectarian conflict here in 2006 and 2007. The attacks included 11 car bombs, 19 improvised explosive devices and 2 suicide bombers.
Coming a little less than two weeks after the Iraqi government said it would negotiate with the United States about keeping some of its 48,000 troops here after the end of the year, the violence raised significant questions about the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces.
The most lethal attack occurred in the city of Kut, south of Baghdad, where a series of explosions inside the city’s main market around 8 a.m. killed 35 people and wounded 71, according to a local security official. It was the country’s deadliest attack since July 5, when nearly three dozen people were killed in the city of Taji, north of the Iraqi capital. It too, was attacked on Monday.
“I heard the sound of the explosion when I was walking towards the market,” said Fathel Kadhem, 27, the owner of a candy store in Kut. “I went running to see what’s going on and another explosion happened.”
He added: “I saw all the people that got hurt and they were all young men.
Ahmed Abdul-Razzaq, a 35-year-old who sells produce, was wounded in the second explosion and blamed the local security forces for the attack.
“The market is blocked off and no cars are supposed to get in,” he said, adding that the car had been parked inside the market since Sunday night.
“I was there helping the injured people but five minutes later the second explosion went off. This is all because of the government’s neglect. I wonder how this car got in? It was only the police who could have allowed it in.”
Violence had appeared to be trending down. In July, 178 people were killed in Iraq, excluding the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, according to statistics complied by the Interior Ministry. That marked a significant decrease from June, when 342 people were killed, and May, when 321 were killed.
A spokeswoman for the United States military in Iraq said they had not received any reports of attacks on American forces.
“We’re trying to keep up with the news pouring out from Iraqi media about attacks in most of the major cities today, mostly VBIEDs,” the spokeswoman said, referring to military’s acronym for car bombs.
In Diyala Province, north of Baghdad, there were at least a dozen explosions that left 6 dead and wounded 29, according to a local security official. One blast struck near the convoy for the mayor of Baquba, the capital of Diyala, injuring him and three of his guards. Gunmen attacked two checkpoints in Baquba, killing five members of Iraqs security forces.
Two suicide bombers in Salahuddin Province, which borders Diyala, attacked an Iraqi counterterrorism unit in the city of Tikrit, killing 3 a high-ranking officer and two other members of the unit and wounding at least 10 people, according to a security official.
Two car bombs were detonated in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, killing 8 and wounding 20, according to a health official.
There was violence in the capital, Baghdad, too. A car bomb was detonated near a government convoy in the neighborhood of Mansur, wounding five people, including two security guards, according to security officials.
The violence was so severe that the interior minister sent out a message to all of the country’s security forces and traffic police to be vigilant about parked cars.
Saad Ahmed, a 38-year-old policeman who was wounded in Taji, said that he opened fire on a suicide bomber who was driving towards him.
The car struck Mr. Ahmed, he fell on the ground and then stood up and fired on him again. Seconds later, the attacker detonated the car bomb.
“I looked at my body and I was drowning in blood,” he said at Khadumiya Hospital in Baghdad, where he was being treated for wounds to his legs, arm and neck. “I just thought about my friends and if they were O.K. because it was 9:15 in the morning and there was a change in shifts.”
He added: “It is Ramadan this month and we should pray that we won’t kill each other. What crime did we commit? We were just trying to protect our country.”
Another policeman being treated at the hospital, Amir Khazal, 33, said that he was leaving work at the time of the attack.
“I was just about the leave the checkpoint for vacation,” he said. “All I wanted was to get home to my kids. I heard gunfire at the beginning and then I heard shouting saying ‘Car bomb, car comb.’”
“After that there was a boom,” he added. “I heard my friend calling me ‘Help, help, I lost my leg.’”
Iraqi employees for The New York Times contributed reporting from Kut, Diyala Province, Salahuddin Province and Kirkuk.
This article, “Wave of Attacks in Iraq Leaves at Least 57 Dead,” originally appeared in The New York Times.