Iraq Attacks Kill 55 Less Than a Week Before Vote

BAGHDAD (AP) -

Insurgents in Iraq deployed a series of car bombs as part of highly coordinated attacks that cut across a wide swath of the country Monday, killing at least 55 on the deadliest day in nearly a month.

The assault bore the hallmarks of a resurgent al-Qaida in Iraq and appeared aimed at sowing fear days before the first elections since U.S. troops withdrew. There was no immediaate claim of responsibility, but coordinated attacks are a favorite tactic of al-Qaida’s Iraq branch.

Iraqi officials believe the group is growing stronger and increasingly coordinating with allies fighting to topple President Bashar Assad across the border. They say rising lawlessness on the Syria-Iraq frontier and cross-border cooperation with a Syrian group, the Nusra Front, has improved the terrorists’ supply of weapons and foreign fighters.

The intensifying violence, some of it related to the scheduled provincial elections, is worrying for Iraqi officials and Baghdad-based diplomats alike. At least 14 candidates have been killed in recent weeks, including one slain in an apparent ambush Sunday.

Monday’s violence marked Iraq’s deadliest day since March 19, the eve of the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion, when a wave of bombings killed 65 across the country.