BAGHDAD, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- A series of bomb attacks, including 13 car bomb explosions, mainly struck predominantly Shiite cities in central and southern Iraq on Sunday, killing at least 14 people and wounding 123, apparently in attempts by militant groups to stir up all-out sectarian strife in the country.
The deadliest attack occurred at an out-door market and a nearby parking lot in central Hillah city, the capital of Babil province, which is about 100 km south of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 27 others, a provincial police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
In Muthanna province, two car bombs went off at al-Rumaitha area near the provincial capital city of Samawa, some 270 km south of Baghdad, killing four people and wounding 13, a provincial police source anonymously told Xinhua.
In Iraq's eastern province of Wasit, two killed and 17 injured in two car bomb explosions, one of them hit a parking lot in the provincial capital city of Kut, some 170 km southeast of Baghdad, while the second struck a restaurant in the northern city, a provincial police source and medical officials told Xinhua.
Also in the province, two car bombs ripped through the city of Sawyrah, some 50 km southeast of Baghdad, wounding 22 people, a local police source said.
Meanwhile, two car bombs ripped through the city of Diwaniyah, the capital of Qadsiyah province, which located some 180 km south of Baghdad, killing a civilian and wounding 18 others, a local police source said.
Separately, a civilian was killed and nine wounded in a car bomb explosion in the town of Mahmoudiyah, some 30 km south of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua.
Two more car bombs detonated in a commercial street in central the oil-hub city of Basra, some 550 km south of Baghdad, wounding 16 people, according to a local police source.
Elsewhere, the police said that a civilian was killed and another wounded in the city of Samarra, some 120 km north of Baghdad, when a roadside bomb went off near a convoy of vehicles carrying people mourning the deaths of an earlier car bombing at an outdoor market in the city on Saturday evening, which reportedly killed 14 and wounded 22.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the al-Qaida front in Iraq, in most cases, was responsible for such massive attacks, raising fears that the terrorist group and other militia could return to widespread violence, particularly as Iraq is trying to fend off the spillover of the escalating violence in neighboring Syria.
Observers see that the security situation in Iraq began to deteriorate on April 23 after the security forces cracked down on a Sunni Arab protest camp in Iraq's northern city of Hawijah. The crackdown sparked fierce clashes across the country's predominantly Sunni provinces between the Sunni tribes and the security forces.
Overall levels of violence by insurgent groups have since escalated and become audacious, as waves of massive bombings and almost daily attacks left thousands of Iraqis killed and wounded.
Iraq is witnessing its worst eruption of violence in recent years, which raises fears that the country is sliding back to the full-blown civil conflict that peaked in 2006 and 2007, when monthly death toll sometimes exceeded 3,000.
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq said that almost 6,000 civilians were killed and over 14,000 others injured in Iraq from January to September this year.