A wave of attacks and explosions in Iraq killed 50 people yesterday and officials delayed provincial polls, highlighting security concerns on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion.
At least 20 explosions and two assassinations also left more than 170 people wounded in the country's bloodiest day in more than six months, reflecting the brutal unrest and endless political crises that were sparked by an invasion that had aimed to build a democratic ally in the heart of the Middle East.
The attacks come amid a spike in violence that has raised fresh questions about the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, with separate reports by Britain-based Iraq Body Count and researchers in The Lancet putting the overall death toll from the decade of bloodshed at over 112,000 civilians.
Most of Tuesday's attacks struck in Shia neighbourhoods in Baghdad during morning rush hour, with security forces stepping up searches at checkpoints and closing off key roads, worsening the capital's gridlock, an AFP reporter said.
Soldiers and police also established new checkpoints, and unusually, were searching at least some government-marked vehicles that are typically allowed to pass uninspected.
In all, at least 15 car bombs were set off, including two by suicide attackers, along with multiple roadside bombs and gun attacks, officials said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the violence, but Sunni militants often target Shia civilians and government employees in a bid to destabilise the country.
Though the war itself was relatively brief -- it began on March 20, 2003, Baghdad fell weeks later, and then-US president George W Bush infamously declared the mission accomplished on May 1 -- its aftermath was violent and bloody.
Britain-based Iraq Body Count has said that more than 112,000 civilians have been killed since the 2003 invasion, while a study published in The Lancet put the figure at 116,000 from 2003 up to December 2011, when US forces pulled out.
Violence, which remains high by international standards, was only brought under some measure of control from 2008 onwards, as the American troop "surge" coincided with Sunni tribal militias deciding to side with US forces.
But political reconciliation, the strategic goal of the surge, was never fully achieved.
From territorial disputes in the north to questions over the apportioning of the country's vast energy revenues, a number of high-level problems remain unresolved, while Iraqis still grapple with daily struggles ranging from poor provision of basic services to high levels of unemployment.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's erstwhile government partners, meanwhile, have charged him with monopolising power, and little in the way of landmark legislation has been passed in recent years.