BAGHDAD, Aug 17: Iraqi officials said on Friday that a blistering string of attacks across the country the previous day ultimately killed at least 93 people and wounded many more, as the extent of the violence grew clearer and mourners began to bury their dead.    

It was Iraq's second deadliest day since US troops left in December, surpassed only by a wave of coordinated killings last month. Thursday's attacks seemed meant to strike fear in Iraqis and undermine faith in the government's security measures ahead of what was supposed to be a festive holiday weekend.

“Al Qaeda wants to send a clear message to the Iraqi people that the terrorists are still strong and able to harm them despite the huge amount of funds spent on the Iraqi security forces,” said lawmaker Hakim al-Zamili, a member of Parliament's security and defence committee. “The terrorists want to tell the Iraqi people that the security forces are still incapable of protecting them.''

Officials had feared an upsurge in violence coinciding with the Eidul Fitr holiday. Steps have been taken to ramp up security measures to protect the crowds who gather in public places such as mosques, parks and restaurants to celebrate Eid.

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.

Car bombs were to blame for many of the deaths, though attackers also deployed smaller explosives and shot some of the victims. A suicide bomber claimed seven lives when he blew himself up inside a teashop in Tal Afar, some 420kms northwest of the capital.

Since the start of August, more than 190 people have been killed in violence across Iraq, showing that insurgents led by Al Qaeda's Iraqi franchise remain a lethal force eight months after the last US troops left the country.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Thursday's strikes. Coordinated bombings and related attacks are a favourite tactic of the Al Qaeda offshoot, known as the Islamic State of Iraq.     Among the higher casualty numbers disclosed on Friday were 21 people killed when a car bomb detonated shortly before midnight near an ice cream shop in Baghdad's Zafaraniyah neighbourhood, 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 district.

The black, mangled body of a car sat in the middle of the street on Friday. Broken plastic chairs and blood-stained fixtures littered the sidewalk. That blast killed 14, authorities said.

Hassan Karim, 23, was in the Sadr City ice cream 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.”—AP

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