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Suicide bomber slaughters 51 Iraqi mourners PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 18 April 2008

AFP, KIRKUK - A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of mourners north of Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 51 people in one of the biggest insurgent attacks in violence-wracked Iraq this year.

The bomber detonated an explosives vest in the Sunni Arab village of Bu Mohammed, near the town of Adhaim in Diyala province north of Baghdad at around 11:00 am (0800 GMT), police captain Najim Abdullah said from Diyala.

Bu Mohammed is located between Baquba, Diyala's provincial capital, and the northern oil hub of Kirkuk. The area between the two cities is a known Al-Qaeda in Iraq stronghold, security officials said. "At least 51 people have been killed and 22 others wounded," Abdullah told AFP.

Doctor Jawdat Abdullah from the hospital in Al-Tuz, near Bu Mohammed, confirmed the attack, saying his facility was receiving wounded victims, some of whom were seriously injured. Another police captain, Abdullah Jassim, said the attack came after a crowd gathered to present condolences over the deaths of two members of a local group fighting Al-Qaeda who were killed two days ago.

An Iraqi security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Al-Qaeda had warned the relatives of the two dead men not to hold the condolence meeting. "But they still went ahead with it. Only 10 days ago the locals here formed an anti-Qaeda group."

Tens of thousands of Sunni Arabs have formed local groups across Iraq backed by the US military to battle Al-Qaeda militants. These groups, mostly former allies of Al-Qaeda, have been increasingly targeted by the jihadist group in recent months amid US military claims that the groups have helped curb overall violence.

Imad Abdullah al-Azzawi, a witness who survived Thursday's suicide attack, said the bomber blew himself up inside the tent where the condolences were being accepted. "There are bodies and body parts scattered everywhere. There is blood everywhere," he told AFP. The latest attack came just two days after a suicide bomber killed at least 13 people in the western city of Ramadi, a former stronghold of Sunni insurgents.

Several of those killed were also members of a local anti-Qaeda group in Ramadi, the capital of the Sunni Arab province of Anbar. Also on Tuesday, a car bomb killed at least 42 people and wounded dozens more outside a Baquba courthouse. The attacks in Ramadi and Baquba were blamed on Al-Qaeda by the US military.

The Bu Mohammed blast caused the highest death toll since the March 17 attack in the central shrine city of Karbala in which at least 52 people were killed and dozens wounded. It was one of the biggest attacks this year.

Thursday's killings come a day after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Al-Qaeda in Iraq was being isolated. "We are more confident than ever that we are close to a definitive victory over Al-Qaeda and its lawless allies," he told the European parliament's foreign affairs committee in Brussels.

Maliki said Al-Qaeda was in a state of "total isolation" in Iraq and was seeking "refuge beyond the borders" in neighbouring nations. "We call on neighbouring countries to dry up the roots of terrorism and prevent the terrorists from filtering into Iraq," he said.

The string of insurgent attacks has raised the level of overall violence in Iraq at a time when security forces are battling Shiite militiamen in Baghdad and in the southern city of Basra. The sustained violence pushed the number of Iraqis killed in March to 1,082, mostly civilians -- the highest monthly figure since August.

The figure is a reversal of the trend of gradually decreasing violence since June and follows tolls of 541 in January, 568 in December, 606 in November, 887 in October, 917 in September, and 1,856 last August.

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