Bombs pounded six Iraqi cities and towns yesterday, killing at least 40 people and raising suspicion that security forces might be assisting terrorists in launching attacks on Shi'ite Muslims.
The onslaught came just ahead of a religious pilgrimage that could attract even more violence.
A senior Iraqi intelligence official said checkpoint guards may have been bribed to help al-Qaida-linked Sunni insurgents plant bombs at Shi'ite marketplaces. The attacks injected new fear into Iraqis, resigned to worsening violence six months after the last American troops left the country.
"We want to live a normal life, but with the current spike in violence and victims, I am personally thinking of moving," said Hassan al-Saadi, 40, a Shi'ite sports equipment store owner in Baghdad who is considering pulling his four children from school for their safety.
"I see the future as worse," al-Saadi said.
A spike in violence over the last month is blamed partially on Iraq's paralysing political crisis, which pits Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government against rival Shiite politicians, Sunni Muslims and ethic Kurds who complain they've been sidelined.