BAGHDAD – Iraqi officials said Friday that a blistering string of attacks across the country the previous day ultimately killed at least 93 people, as the extent of the violence grew clearer and mourners started to bury their dead.
Thursday's attacks began early in the north of Iraq and ended with deadly bomb explosions near busy markets, restaurants and ice cream parlors shortly before midnight.
It was Iraq's deadliest day in more than three weeks. The attacks seemed meant to strike fear in Iraqis and undermine faith in the Shiite-led government's security measures ahead of what was supposed to be a festive holiday weekend.
Since the start of August, more than 190 people have been killed in violence across Iraq, showing that insurgents led by al-Qaida's Iraqi franchise remain a lethal force eight months after the last U.S. troops left the country.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Coordinated bombings and related attacks are a favorite tactic of the al-Qaida offshoot, known as the Islamic State of Iraq.
Among the higher casualty numbers disclosed Friday were 21 people killed when a car bomb detonated shortly before midnight near an ice cream shop in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite Zafaraniyah neighborhood, according to police and hospital officials.
Another bomb exploded near an ice cream parlor and fruit and vegetable stalls in the capital's Sadr City, another poor Shiite district. The black, mangled body of a car sat in the middle of the street Friday. Broken plastic chairs and blood-stained fixtures littered the sidewalk. That blast killed 14, authorizes said.
Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the tallies to reporters.
Hassan Karim, 23, was in the Sadr City shop chatting with friends when the bomb went off.
"I saw a big flash, followed by thunderous noise. ... I opened my eyes to find myself in the hospital with my left hand bandaged," he said. "Before yesterday, we thought there were still safe places to sit and have a nice time with friends, but with this explosion we know there is no safe place in Iraq. All the best security measures could not stop terrorists from killing people."
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, dozens of people carried the coffins of relatives through the streets. Some mourners wept, while others sought solace by chanting "God is great."
Iraqi officials are tightening security ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan this weekend. They are hoping to thwart further violence as crowds gather in public places such as parks, shrines and mosques to mark the occasion.
Thursday's attacks, which included several bombings in the ethnically mixed northern flashpoint of Kirkuk, were Iraq's deadliest in weeks. On July 23, a string of coordinated bombings and shootings left more than 100 dead.
Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed reporting.