September was the deadliest month in Iraq in more than two years, with 365 people killed in violence that included waves of nationwide attacks, official figures show.
"Human flesh was on the sidewalk, being collected and put in plastic bags"
- Abu Ihab,
Baghdad store owner
Fighters are regarded as weaker than when violence reached its peak in 2006 and 2007, but they remain capable of carrying out mass-casualty attacks across the country.
The statistics compiled by the health, interior and defence ministries showed that 182 civilians, 88 police and 95 soldiers were killed in attacks in September.
Another 683 people were wounded, which includes 453 civilians, 110 police and 120 soldiers, according to the figures.
It was the highest monthly toll given by the government since August 2010, when figures showed 426 people killed and 838 wounded in attacks.
The previous deadliest month this year was July, when 325 people were killed in attacks, according to official figures.
The worst violence of the month occurred on September 8 and 9, when a wave of more than 30 attacks killed 88 people and wounded more than 400.
String of bombings
Sunday was the second-deadliest day in September, with at least 33 people killed and 106 wounded in attacks. The string of bomb and gun attacks occurred in Baghdad and the nearby areas of Taji, Madain and Tarmiyah, and also hit Kut, Mosul, south of the northern oil city of Kirkuk, and areas around Baquba.
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In Baghdad's central Karrada district on Sunday, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-packed car, scattering debris for dozens of metres from the site of the blast, shattering store windows and smashing cars.
A headless, limbless torso surrounded by pieces of flesh lay at the scene.
"I was in my shop and I heard the sound of a very powerful explosion," said another store owner who gave his name only as Abu Ihab. "Dust was everywhere."
"We were sitting in the shop while police were collecting flesh," he said.
"Human flesh was on the sidewalk, being collected and put in plastic bags."
"When the explosion happens, it does not care about any security measures," he said. "I sit in my shop and I am afraid for my life."
Complaints against government
The deadly violence in Iraq and a lack of basic services are two of the main complaints against the government.
"We are tired of this government," said Haidar Mohammed, an employee of a shop on the street hit by the blast on Sunday. "The government does not do anything."
September also saw a brazen prison break in the city of Tikrit in which 102 inmates, among them 47 alleged al-Qaeda members who had been sentenced to death, managed to escape, according to the interior ministry.
|Iraqi security personnel stand at the site of a bomb attack in Kut, 150 km southeast of Baghdad [Reuters]
The ministry said that weapons had been smuggled into the prison during family visits, and that inmates were also able to seize a guard's weapon, and take others from an armoury.
The inmates launched an uprising in the prison, taking control of the facility. Two high-ranking police officers also reported that fighters outside the prison detonated explosives at the facility's perimeter to aid the escape.
Out of the 102 fugitives, four had been killed and 23 captured as of Friday night, according to the ministry, which also said that 16 security forces members were killed in clashes related to the incident.
Al-Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) said in July that it was launching a "new military campaign aimed at recovering territory".
An earlier message posted on online forums said the ISI would begin targeting judges and prosecutors, and try to help its prisoners break out.
Fighters have attacked a number of heavily-guarded sites in recent months.
In addition to the Tikrit prison break, targets have included a prison in Taji, police stations, a military base, the counter-terrorism directorate in Baghdad, and an entrance to Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.