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By HAMID AHMED and SINAN SALAHEDDIN / Associated Press / Aug 15, 9:42 AM EDT.
KUT, Iraq (AP) -- Bomb blasts ripped through more than a dozen Iraqi cities Monday, killing 60 security forces and civilians in the worst attack this year, one that highlighted al-Qaida's resolve and ability to wreak havoc.
The bloodbath comes less than two weeks after Iraqi officials said they would be open to a small number of U.S. forces staying in the country past a Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline.
The blasts were coordinated to go off Monday morning and included parked car bombs, roadside bombs, a suicide bomber driving a vehicle that rammed into a police station and even bombs attached to lightpoles.
The scope of the violence - seven explosions went off in different towns in Diyala province alone - emphasized that insurgents are still able to carry out attacks despite repeated crackdowns by Iraqi and U.S. forces.
Iraqis were furious at security officials and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
"Where is the government with all these explosions across the country? Where is al-Maliki? Why doesn't he come to see?" said Ali Jumaa Ziad, a shopowner in Kut, where the worst of the violence occurred. Ziad was brushing pieces of human flesh from the floor and off equipment in his shop.
Al-Maliki's spokesman and the military spokesman did not answer telephone calls.
Twin explosions rocked the market in Kut, 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, where Ziad works.
Police spokesman Lt. Col. Dhurgam Mohammed Hassan said the first bomb went off in a freezer used to keep drinks cold. As rescuers and onlookers gathered, a parked car bomb exploded; 35 people were killed and 64 injured.
Police sealed off the area where human flesh was scattered on the ground and bloodstained walls were punctured by shrapnel.
Earlier this month, Iraqi political leaders announced they would begin negotiations with the U.S. to determine whether to keep a small number of American forces in the country past Dec. 31.
All U.S. troops must leave by the end of this year, but both Iraqi and U.S. officials have expressed concern about the ability of Iraqi forces to protect the country.
Theodore Karasik, a Middle East security expert at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analyst, said al-Qaida in Iraq is trying to disrupt the internal Iraqi political process and send a message to the Americans.
"It seems that al-Qaida in Iraq is playing a propaganda game at the same time it's trying to show that it can still carry out deadly violence," Karasik said. "If the U.S. extends its military presence, al-Qaida in Iraq can use it as a tool by saying, `Look, the Americans have reversed their decision to leave and are staying on as occupiers.' They could use this as a justification for more attacks."
In Diyala province, seven bombs went off in the capital of Baquba and towns nearby, said Faris al-Azawi, the province's health spokesman. Five soldiers were killed in Baquba while five people were killed in other attacks around the province.
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