Allawi promised to confront the insurgents, whose aim he said was to sabotage the 30 June transfer of sovereignty. ‘We are going to defeat them. We have been expecting this escalation and we are expecting more escalation in the days ahead,’ he said.

At least 62 people died in Mosul and 220 were hurt in a series of car bombings. The co-ordinated attacks killed 13 people in Baquba, while 20 died and 76 were wounded in Ramadi and Falluja. Eight died in Baghdad and 13 were wounded. Three US soldiers died in two separate attacks.

Washington too expressed its determination to deal with the insurgency. In an interview with the BBC, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said the US had underestimated the scale of the insurgency, but promised to regain control of the situation. ‘I think we underestimated the nature of the insurgency that we might face during this period,’ he said. ‘The insurgency that we’re looking at now has become a serious problem for us, but it’s a problem that we will deal with. We will get security under control.’

In a separate development, radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called a ceasefire in the Sadr district of Baghdad, its final place of operation. A statement from the militia, known as the Mehdi Army, said: ‘For the sake of the public interest and considering the sensitive situation the oppressed Iraqi people are under, the Central Mehdi Army Command announces a halt to military operations within Sadr City’.