BAGHDAD – A relentless barrage of bombings killed 63 people Monday in the most sweeping and coordinated attack Iraq has seen in over a year, striking 17 cities from northern Sunni areas to the southern Shiite heartland.

The surprising scope and sophistication of the bloodbath suggested that al-Qaida remains resilient despite recent signs of weakness. Such attacks will likely continue long after American forces withdraw from the country.

“This is our destiny,” said Eidan Mahdi, one of more than 250 Iraqis wounded Monday. Mahdi was lying in a hospital bed in the southern city of Kut. One of his eyes was sealed shut with dried blood, and burns covered his hands and head.

While some Iraqis expressed resignation, others voiced fury at security officials and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“Where is the government with all these explosions across the country? Where is al-Maliki? Why doesn’t he come to see?” said Ali Jumaa Ziad, a Kut shop owner. Ziad was brushing pieces of human flesh from the floor and off equipment in his shop.

The bombs went off on a hot and sunny morning as people were headed to work. Explosive devices were planted in the vests of suicide attackers, in parked cars, along the sides of roads and even on light poles.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but the simultaneous attacks, the targeting of Shiite civilians and Iraqi security forces and the use of suicide bombers indicated that al-Qaida in Iraq was responsible.

That the terror group was able to pull off such an attack, spanning half of Iraq’s 18 provinces, came as somewhat of a surprise.

A little over a year ago, U.S. and Iraqi officials said the deaths of al-Qaida in Iraq’s two top leaders in a raid had dealt a severe blow to the organization. The group has suffered from a drop in funding and just last week was calling on former members to come back to the fold, a sign of the group’s diminished status.

But time and again, al-Qaida in Iraq has shown an ability to resurrect itself.

“Al-Qaida in Iraq has been resting and waiting and is now making itself heard to both disrupt the internal Iraqi political process and send a message to the Americans, which have called al-Qaida in Iraq dead and buried,” said Theodore Karasik, a Middle East security expert at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

Monday’s violence came less than two weeks after Iraqi officials said they would discuss with the U.S. whether to have some American forces stay in the country past their Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline. U.S. officials have offered to keep about 10,000 of the 46,000 American soldiers currently here into next year if Iraq agrees.

Karasik said the timing may be no coincidence, and that al-Qaida may be using reverse psychology. Greater violence could lead to calls for the U.S. to extend its military presence, but the terror group knows that the U.S. is very unlikely to resume a full-scale combat mission and that the troop numbers would be too small to make much of a difference.

“If the U.S. extends its military presence, al-Qaida in Iraq can use it as a tool by saying, ‘Look, the Americans have reversed their decision to leave and are staying on as occupiers.’ They could use this as a justification for more attacks,” Karasik said.

Joost Hiltermann from the International Crisis Group said such attacks are likely to continue regardless of whether the American forces withdraw because the Sunni population from which al-Qaida in Iraq gets its support still feels threatened by the Shiite-led Iraqi government.

“The point is how strong and cohesive the government, the ruling coalition and the security forces are. That is going to determine whether these guys (al-Qaida) have an opportunity or not. You need to dry up their opportunities,” Hiltermann said.

“The Sunnis are still very unhappy with the Maliki government and the role that they play in it,” he added.

President Obama’s spokesman, Jay Carney, said the White House strongly condemned the bombings, but emphasized that overall violence was down.