A wave of car bombs ripped through busy streets and markets in Iraq Monday, killing at least 55 people and wounding more than 200 others as the country struggles with a surge in violence and sectarian tensions.
Most of the 17 blasts struck predominantly Shi'ite areas of Baghdad, while one bomb exploded in the southern city of Basra.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks. Al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq has frequently used car bombs in coordinated attacks to undermine the country's Shi'ite-led government.
Monday's bombings underscore deteriorating security in Iraq, where nearly 3,000 people have been killed since April. In July, more than 800 people were killed in militant attacks.
The acting United Nations envoy to Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin, said Iraq is "bleeding from random violence" and that the killings could push the country "back into sectarian strife."
The violence has raised fears of a return to full-blown intercommunal conflict in a country where ethnic Kurds, majority Shi'ites and Sunni Muslims have yet to find a stable way of sharing power.
Many Sunnis have held protests against the government, saying it is ignoring their needs and marginalizing them politically.
The incidents have raised concern of a return to widespread sectarian attacks that plagued the country after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.