(BAGHDAD) — A series of bombings and shootings across Baghdad and northern Iraq Monday left at least 107 people dead and 216 others injured.
It was the bloodiest day of the year as militants tested the efficacy of Iraqi security forces responsible for protecting the population since virtually all American troops left the country at the end of 2011.
The series of coordinated attacks were launched in the capital and nearly 20 other cities and villages, and targeted army and police officers, as well as civilians.
Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds were victims of the assaults, calling to mind the sectarian warfare that came close to tearing Iraq apart during the height of the war several years ago.
Various Shiite sections of Baghdad were struck, including the densely populated Sadr City area, which suffered the city’s greatest losses with 16 fatalities.
Just 12 miles north of Baghdad, bombs killed at least 41 people in the Sunni neighborhood of Taji. Meanwhile, the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk in the semiautonomous Kurdish region was also victimized by bombings as nine people were reported dead, including a half-dozen soldiers.
The wave of attacks came just days after someone purporting to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, vowed that his group would regain territories it left behind when the U.S. forces were still deployed in the country.
According to al-Baghdadi, “The majority of Sunnis in Iraq support al Qaeda and are waiting for its return.”
Al Qaeda may be exploiting the ongoing political turmoil in Baghdad with Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki becoming increasingly unpopular with Sunnis and Kurds.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ben Westcott, CNN
Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
Arwa Damon, Waffa Munayyer and Bryony Jones, CNN