BAGHDAD, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Iraq's vice president, in hiding to avoid arrest on terror charges, blamed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a sudden surge in sectarian violence.
"We should blame Mr. Maliki -- he started a national crisis and it's not easy to control," Tariq al-Hashemi told the BBC's Arabic service. "The Iraqis have a right to be worried."
His comments followed a series of explosions that ripped through mostly Shiite areas of Iraq's capital Thursday, killing at least 68 people and injuring nearly 200. The attacks, which began at 6:30 a.m., destroyed schools, markets and apartments.
An ambulance packed with explosives incinerated a government office, The New York Times reported.
The morning blasts killed at least 65 people -- Baghdad's deadliest day in more than a year. Four more blasts shook Baghdad Thursday night, killing at least three more people.
No group claimed responsibility for the attacks, but analysts told the BBC and the Times they appeared similar to attacks conducted by the largely homegrown Sunni insurgent group al-Qaida in Iraq.
Western officials were alarmed at how quickly the withdrawal of U.S. troops had led to deadly sectarian violence, the Times said.
Maliki is a Shiite. Al-Hashemi is one of the country's most prominent Sunni politicians.
Maliki accused al-Hashemi this week of running a death squad and put out an arrest warrant for him.
Al-Hashemi denied the allegations and fled to Irbil in semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, under the protection of the regional government.
Maliki has demanded al-Hashemi return to Baghdad, but al-Hashemi said he would not because he could not receive a fair trial there. The Kurdish government offered no sign Thursday it would heed Maliki's demand to extradite al-Hashemi, the Times said.
Al-Hashemi told the BBC the attacks occurred because the government was too busy chasing "patriotic politicians" like himself instead of hunting down terrorists.
"The security services are pointed in the wrong direction," he said.
Maliki added new tension to the political climate Wednesday by threatening to discard Iraq's fragile power-sharing government.