BAGHDAD — The bloodiest day of the year in Iraq left at least 69 people dead in a series of bombings in mainly Shiite areas on Friday.
No one took responsibility for Friday's blasts, but officials were quick to blame Sunni-led insurgent groups. The attacks come at a particularly fragile time as Iraq awaits formation of a new government after its March 7 elections and prepares for U.S. troops to go home by the end of next year.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lashed out at the bombers in a statement, saying the insurgents were trying to fight back after Iraqi security forces killed the two top al-Qaida in Iraq leaders on April 18.
"The cowardly terrorist attacks that occurred today were intending to cover the great success achieved by the security forces through the killing of the leaders of wickedness and terrorism, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri," Maliki said.
In the Baghdad slum of Sadr City, hundreds of worshipers were kneeling on prayer mats in the streets surrounding the offices of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr when the deadliest blasts went off.
Aqil Ibrahim, 35, was fixing his taxi when he heard the first explosion. "I went to see what was going on and to help the wounded worshipers. I saw pieces of human flesh on the ground," he said, holding his bandaged hand.
Onlookers in Sadr City threw stones at arriving Iraqi security forces, frustrated that the troops cannot secure the city. Troops fired their guns in the air to scatter the crowd.
Two bombs exploded in the mainly Shiite neighborhood of Zafaraniyah. Two others targeted mosques linked with Shiite political leaders.
Three people died in scattered violence elsewhere in the capital.
Bombs also ripped through the houses of Iraqi policemen in the former insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, killing at least seven people, authorities said.
April has been the deadliest month in Iraq so far this year, with more than 263 civilians killed in war-related violence, according to an Associated Press count.