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Al-Qaida Affiliate Claims Iraq Attacks

Men stand next to wreckage of car and scattered vegetable at market where a car bomb exploded in Diwaniya province, south of Baghdad, July 23, 2012.
Al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the deadliest day of violence to hit the country in more than two years.

The Islamic State of Iraq said in a statement posted on jihadist websites that it was behind the wave of attacks that struck at least 15 cities Monday, killing at least 115 people and wounding more than 200 others.

The coordinated bombings and shootings came days after a man identified as the group's leader said in an audio message that it was starting a "new phase" and planned to carry out attacks. The speaker, identified as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said the Islamic State of Iraq was planning to assassinate court officials and to free prisoners.

The ISI previously claimed responsibility for a wave of car bombings that killed 72 people in June and wounded nearly 260 others.

The worst of Monday's attacks occurred in Taji, 20 kilometers north of Baghdad, where nearly 40 people were killed. A series of explosions at a housing complex was followed by a later blast that targeted police who arrived at the scene. Other attacks included one in which gunmen killed at least 15 Iraqi soldiers at a military base in northeastern Iraq, a series of explosions in the northern city of Kirkuk and a car bombing in Baghdad.

The United States condemned the attacks, but it said that despite the setback, Iraq is not nearly as violent a place as it was in the past.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Iraqi security forces have been trained and have the capacity to deal with their own security.