Coordinated bombings blamed on Al-Qaeda that mainly targeted Shiite areas of Baghdad killed 24 people Thursday, after Iraq's premier vowed to press a campaign against militants to stem spiralling violence.
Security forces have carried out major operations against militants in past weeks, but the relentless violence has raised fears Iraq could slip back into the all-out sectarian bloodshed of 2006-2007 as the interior ministry warned that Iraq's streets had become a "battleground".
Overall, seven car bombings and a roadside explosion struck seven different areas of the capital during the morning rush-hour -- five of them Shiite-majority and a sixth mixed -- leaving 24 dead and more than 75 others wounded, according to security and medical officials.
In the single deadliest attack, a car bomb exploded at a bus station in the Kadhimiyah area of north Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding 24.
Another car bomb blew up in Baladiyat near an office of Al-Ahad television, which is affiliated with Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a Shiite militant group that split from powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.
"I was parking my car and, all of a sudden, the bomb went off," said 38-year-old taxi driver Haitham Khalaf, whose vehicle's windshield was badly damaged by a blast in central Baghdad's Allawi neighbourhood.
"I was slipping in and out of consciousness, I was so confused. I only heard the explosion, and then I fell. I couldn't feel anything. I was in shock, it was such a big explosion.
"I am thankful to God that I am safe," said Khalaf, who was not wounded in the attack, standing close to multiple military vehicles that blocked off entry to the street where the bombing took place.
"We only pray to God that this (violence) will be over."
Nearby vehicles and shops were badly damaged by the blast in Allawi, where a crane picked up debris and emergency workers cleared the scene.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the interior ministry blamed militants linked to Al-Qaeda, who frequently target members of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, whom they consider apostates.
"Iraqi streets have become a battleground," the ministry warned in a statement, which said militants were seeking to establish a religious state, with funding and support from supporters both inside and outside Iraq.
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"Some sectarian extremists, moved by their hatred and religious edicts, are bullying and killing people in cold blood, without feeling or any links to humanity, and drinking the blood of innocents, and eating their hearts and livers ... to carry out a bloody plot to topple the state."
The ministry said militants moved "like ghosts", and concluded: "The fight against terrorism is long and arduous, and filled with enormous sacrifices but, in the end, we will win."
Thursday's violence came a day after attacks including a blast at a cafe north of the capital killed 17 people.
Another wave of attacks claimed by an Al-Qaeda front group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, struck areas across Iraq last Saturday, killing 74 people, among them 47 in Baghdad.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said security forces would continue large-scale efforts to hunt militants.
He said more than 800 alleged militants had been detained and dozens killed, and that security forces had destroyed militant infrastructure used to make car bombs and seized a large amounts of weapons and explosives.
The premier did not, however, give any details.
Security forces have for weeks been carrying out wide-ranging operations in multiple provinces including Baghdad, after brazen July assaults on two major prisons, claimed by the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant.
Hundreds of inmates were freed in the well-coordinated attacks, among them some said to be senior militants, raising fears the escapes will bolster armed groups in Iraq.
Violence has markedly increased this year, especially since an April 23 security operation at a Sunni Arab anti-government protest site that sparked clashes in which dozens died.
Analysts say Sunni anger is the main cause of the spike in violence this year.
Attacks have killed more than 3,460 people in Iraq since the beginning of 2013, according to figures compiled by AFP.