BAQUBA, (AFP) — A suicide bomber killed 10 people as he blew himself up inside a Shiite mosque in central Iraq on Thursday, as nationwide violence left 16 dead, including senior police and army officers.
The flare-up comes with just months to go before US troops are to withdraw completely from Iraq and as a string of American officials have passed through Baghdad this month to press Iraq to decide on whether it wants an extended US military presence.
In Thursday’s deadliest attack, a suicide attacker detonated his payload amid a crowd of worshippers inside the Imam al-Hussein mosque in Baladruz, around 75 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad, according to a colonel in the provincial security command.
At least 10 people were killed in the attack, according to the colonel and a doctor in Baladruz hospital, both of whom declined to be identified.
The colonel put the number of wounded at 30, while Hassan al-Shammari, a doctor at the main hospital in Diyala’s provincial capital Baquba, said the hospital was treating 18 wounded.
All of the casualties from the blast, which occurred at around 8:15 pm (1715 GMT), were men.
Shammari said ambulances had been dispatched from Baquba to Baladruz, which lies 30 kilometres (20 miles) to the east.
Baladruz is in Diyala province, which is home to Sunni and Shiite Muslims and remains one of Iraq’s most violent, even as the number of attacks nationwide has dropped off dramatically from its peak in 2006 and 2007.
Meanwhile, in the oil-rich, ethnically mixed province of Kirkuk, a car bomb targeting a passing convoy killed five people, including police Colonel Mohammed Mohsen and three other policemen.
The explosion occurred in the town of Shahria, a local police colonel said.
Khalaf al-Juburi, a doctor at the main hospital in the nearby town of Hawija, confirmed the death toll. Both sources said three policemen and three civilians were wounded.
Kirkuk is in the centre of disputed territory claimed by both the central government and Kurdish regional authorities. US officials have persistently said the unresolved row is one of the biggest threats to Iraq’s future stability.
Also on Thursday, gunmen shot dead Brigadier General Mohammed Alaa Jassim in his car on a busy thoroughfare in the Ghazaliyah neighbourhood of west Baghdad, an interior ministry official said.
Jassim was deputy commander of the air force’s Al-Muthanna base in central Baghdad. His death was the fourth of a senior Iraqi official in the past week, with at least three others having narrowly escaped.
On Wednesday, a magnetic “sticky bomb” affixed to the car of Iraq’s top theatre and film official detonated shortly after he parked it. Shafiq al-Mehdi was killed and two bodyguards were wounded.
A day earlier, the deputy police chief of Kirkuk province in northern Iraq himself escaped an assassination attempt that involved four explosions which killed one other security force member and wounded 30 people.
Last week, a senior official in Iraq’s foreign ministry, the head of Iraq’s tax agency, and an army lieutenant colonel were killed by gunmen using silencers. A police departmental chief was wounded in a similar incident.
The Islamic State of Iraq, Al-Qaeda’s front group in the country, posted a statement on the Internet jihadist forum Honein last week, claiming to have carried out 62 “operations” between the start of March and April 5.