BAGHDAD — Car bombs ripped through Shiite and Kurdish targets in Baghdad and other cities Wednesday, killing at least 66 people, wounding more than 200 and feeding growing doubts that Iraq will emerge as a stable democracy after decades of war and dictatorship.
The latest bloodshed comes against a backdrop of sharpening political divisions that show Iraq has made little progress in healing the breach among its religious and ethnic communities that once pushed the country to the brink of civil war. The coordination, sophistication and targets of the attack bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida and its Sunni militant allies seeking to exploit these tensions.
Iraqi authorities played down any suggestion that the devastating attacks that have taken place every few weeks or so since the U.S. military withdrew in mid-December portend a return to the all-out, tit-for-tat violence that tore the nation apart in 2006-2007.
"Iraqis are fully aware of the terrorism agenda and will not slip into a sectarian conflict," said Baghdad military command spokesman Col. Dhia al-Wakeel.
Altogether, 17 explosions struck Baghdad and six other cities and towns some 300 miles apart, from Mosul in the vast deserts of the north to Hillah in the fertile plains of the south. Most targeted Shiite pilgrims between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. as hundreds of thousands were making their way on foot to the capital.