At least seven people are killed when a car bomb explodes in the Baghdad's Sadr City, the latest in a series of attacks across Iraq that left close to 20 people dead. (Reuters)

Militants unleashed a wave of car bombings in Iraq on Tuesday, killing at least 34 people in a show of force meant to intimidate the majority Shiites as they celebrated what is meant to be a joyous holiday for their sect.

The attacks occurred nearly two weeks after Iraqis voted in their country’s first parliamentary election since the U.S. military withdrawal in late 2011. No results have been released, deepening a sense of uncertainty in a country strained by a resurgence of violence.

It was the deadliest day in Iraq since April 28, when militant strikes on targets including polling stations where security forces were voting killed 46 people. No group asserted responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks, most of which hit Baghdad during the morning rush hour, but the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is the most likely suspect.

The group, made up of Sunni extremists, has strengthened control over parts of western Iraq since late December. It seeks to undermine the Shiite-led government’s efforts to maintain security across the country. Coordinated car-bomb attacks against Shiites, whom the group considers heretics, are a favored tactic.

All of Tuesday’s blasts were caused by explosives-laden vehicles parked in public areas. They coincided with the Shiite celebration of the birthday of Imam Ali, the prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law and the sect’s most sacred martyr.

Two blasts killed six people and wounded 13 in Baghdad’s poor Shiite district of Sadr City, according to police.

A little later, a car bomb exploded in a commercial street in the capital’s eastern district of Jamila, killing three people and wounding 10. Police said a fourth car bomb went off near a traffic police office in eastern Baghdad, killing four people and wounding seven.

Other blasts struck commercial areas in downtown Baghdad, in the eastern districts of Ur and Maamil, and in the southern Dora district. Those attacks killed 15 and wounded 45, police said.

Yet another parked-car bomb exploded in Balad, a largely Shiite town north of the capital. It killed six and wounded 17, police said.

Most Iraqis went to the polls April 30, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is seeking a third term on a law-and-order platform, hailed the strong turnout as a rejection of terrorism.

Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission has said that vote counting is still underway. It has not set a date to announce final results.

— Associated Press