At least 28 people have been killed and scores in injured in a string of deadly attacks across Iraq, including an assassination attempt on a member of parliament in the capital Baghdad Sunday.
In a pattern that is becoming all too familiar for residents of the capital, a string of apparently coordinated car bombings ripped through predominantly Shia areas. Worst hit was the majority-Shia city of Hilla and its environs, where four car bombs killed 16 people, according to police and medics.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad the head of the provincial council and member of parliament Riyadh al-Adhadh escaped unharmed from a bomb attack on a convoy he was travelling in, in an apparent assassination bid. Two people were killed, and four injured in that attack.
Al Adhadh is a Sunni politician, and a number of the targets in today's attacks were Sunni-majority cities such as Abu Ghraib, Baquba and Mosul. It is unclear who was behind those particular attacks, as no one has yet claimed responsibility. Shia militias have often engaged in revenge attacks against Sunni Muslims, but it is equally possible that Al Qaeda had chosen those targets either in a bid to stoke further conflict or in order to attack political opponents within the Sunni community.
It is the latest chapter in Iraq's bloodiest period since the height of the US-led Coalition's counter-insurgency campaign in 2008, with 4,000 dead so far this year.
Western forces have since withdrawn from Iraq, but have left behind a country that is far from stable - wallowing in a political stalemate and a widening sectarian chasm between the country's Shia majority and Sunni minority. Under Saddam Hussein's rule, the Sunni minority - which comprises around 40% of the Iraqi population - was empowered at the expense of the Shia majority.
Since Saddam's ouster the country's Shia majority has risen to the top of Iraq's political pile, and many Sunnis now complain of discrimination at the hands of authorities. This - along with the raging sectarian conflict in neighboring Syria - has fueled an Al Qaeda resurgence in Iraq. That has meant a serious escalation in sectarian attacks targeting the Shia population, which in turn has provoked a crackdown by security forces on the Sunni areas suspected of harboring the terrorists.
But that government crackdown - in spite of many tactical successes in dismantling local Al Qaeda cells - seems to have done little to quell the overall wave of violence. If anything, the perception that authorities are targeting the Sunni population is fanning the flames of resentment, and amplifying Al Qaeda's call to arms.