Two suicide bombers killed at least 27 people in two Iraqi cities, on the deadliest day since Iraq's elections just more than a week ago. The number of attacks nationwide declined in the days following the poll, but the last two days have seen a resumption of the violence.
The deadliest attack came in the town of Baquba, 50 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. A car bomb exploded near a police station, where reports say a large crowd of people were waiting to enlist in the police force. It was not immediately clear how many of the dead were police recruits and how many were civilians.
In the northern city of Mosul, a man wearing an explosive-laden vest walked into a crowd of police officers on a hospital compound and blew himself up, killing 12.
The al-Qaida group in Iraq claimed responsibility for both attacks in an Internet statement. The group is led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born militant who carries a $25-million-bounty on his head.
The attacks in Baquba and Mosul targeted Iraqi police, who have been the most frequent victims of terrorist activity in Iraq. Scores of police officers have died in the line of duty, and many officers try to conceal their identity so they will not be targeted
But police officials say that since the election, they are receiving more tips from Iraqi citizens, allowing them to make inroads in the fight against the insurgency.
Baghdad merchant Salem Mustafa says the police have been fighting an uphill battle.
"I think they need more support from the people. I think they need some experience," he said.
The relative calm that followed the January 30 election has been repeatedly shattered during the past several days, but the two suicide bombings made this the deadliest day since voters defied insurgent threats and went to the polls.
Most of the attacks have taken place far from Baghdad, though, and the streets of the Iraqi capital have remained relatively calm. Several Western newspapers have run stories about what they call the changed mood in Baghdad since the election, a feeling that life has returned to something closer to normal.
But five foreigners have been kidnapped in Baghdad during the past few days, and many residents are still on guard. Baghdad University political science student Rana Fadhil is one of them.
She said, "I think the security situation has not completely changed, but there has been a partial change. We are still hearing about car bombs and roadside bombs and kidnappings, but I think it is a little better than before."