BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Two bombs killed at least 25 people at a checkpoint outside a provincial Iraqi governor’s house on Tuesday in the latest in a series of attacks against local government and security forces.
A suicide bomber blew himself up and a car bomb exploded almost simultaneously outside the Diwaniya governor’s house, 150 km (95 miles) south of Baghdad, just as guards changed shifts. Most of the victims were security staff, officials said.
“I heard a loud blast and then another one. I opened the door and I saw white smoke and smelled the blood… I looked to the side and I saw three guards dead on the ground,” said Maha al-Sagban, a resident whose house was damaged.
Television footage showed the crumpled and burnt-out wreckage of a white truck lying by the remains of a guard post. Bloodied and wounded security guards filled the beds of a local Diwaniya hospital.
Muayad al-Ansary, a spokesman for the provincial council in Diwaniya, said the death toll had risen to 25 killed and 35 more were wounded.
Bombings and killings in Iraq have fallen sharply since the height of sectarian violence in 2006-2007, but a stubborn Sunni Islamist insurgency linked to al Qaeda, other Sunni groups and rival Shi’ite militias still carry out daily attacks.
Iraqi security forces and provincial officials are increasingly targeted by violence as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from OPEC member Iraq by a year-end deadline more than eight years after the U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
Five people were killed and nine wounded in a separate attack on Tuesday when a bomb exploded in a restaurant in Mussayab, 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
Militants fired rockets at a joint U.S.-Iraqi base in the capital Baghdad, wounding three civilians, an Interior Ministry source said. But the U.S. military said none hit the base and no casualties were reported there.
In the city of Ramadi, about 100 km (60 miles) west of Baghdad in mainly Sunni Anbar province, a police bomb squad was called to defuse two car bombs placed a few hundred metres from government buildings. The first was deactivated, but the second exploded, wounding one officer, police said.
SECURITY FORCES, OFFICIALS TARGETED
Diwaniya is a poor, mainly Shi’ite region and several of Iraq’s armed groups are active in the area.
Bombings and attacks have hit local government buildings in the last four months and security officials have said they expect increased attacks on provincial offices.
The Diwaniya attack followed a similar pattern to an attack on a checkpoint in Tikrit earlier this month when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives as army guards were handing over security duty to police.
Gunmen and suicide bombers a week ago stormed a provincial council building in Baquba in the central province of Diyala, killing at least eight people before Iraqi forces retook the building with the help of U.S. troops.
In March, gunmen stormed a provincial council headquarters in Tikrit, taking hostages before security forces ended the siege. At least 58 people were killed in the assault, claimed by a local al Qaeda affiliate.
The remaining 47,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to leave at the end of the year but Iraqi leaders are discussing the sensitive question of whether to ask at least some of them to stay on in a training and advising role.