Car bombs tore through a Najaf funeral procession and Karbala's main bus station Sunday, killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 120 in the two Shiite holy cities. In Baghdad, gunmen launched a bold ambush, executing three election officials, in their campaign to disrupt next month's parliamentary ballot.
The deadly strikes highlighted the apparent ability of the insurgents to launch attacks almost at will, despite confident assessments by U.S. military commanders that they had regained the initiative after last month's campaign against militants in Fallujah.
In the Baghdad attack, dozens of guerrillas -- unmasked and apparently unafraid to show their faces -- ran rampant over Haifa Street, a main downtown thoroughfare. They dragged the three election workers from a car, lay them on the street in the middle of morning traffic and shot them point-blank.
The bombings in Najaf and Karbala, which Shiite officials suspected were coordinated, were the deadliest attacks since July. They were a bloody reminder that the Shiite heartland in the south -- not just the Sunni regions of central and northern Iraq-- is vulnerable to the mainly Sunni insurgents aiming to wreck the vote.