RAMADI, (AFP) – A suicide car bomber killed at least seven people and wounded dozens near government buildings in the mainly Sunni Iraqi city of Ramadi on Sunday as political leaders moved towards forming a new government.
Some officials said up to 13 people were killed and as many as 57 wounded in the blast in western Anbar province, once a stronghold of the al Qaeda Islamist militant group.
Hikmet Khalaf, the deputy governor of Anbar, said the blast in central Ramadi, 100 km (60 miles) west of Baghdad, targeted a complex in which the provincial council is based.
“It (the explosion) was at a crowded crossroad. There were civilian vehicles passing and it is also the entrance to the main government offices,” said Khalaf, who put the toll at seven dead and 25 wounded.
“The death toll could rise because there are people who are critically wounded.”
The sprawling desert province of Anbar was the heartland of a Sunni Islamist insurgency after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Its main cities, Ramadi and Falluja, witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the war.
But local Sunni tribal chiefs turned on al Qaeda, helping U.S. forces bring relative peace to the region.
Last December, twin suicide blasts killed at least 24 and wounded more than 100 just outside the provincial government headquarters in Ramadi. The governor of Anbar province was critically wounded in one of the attacks, but survived.
A provincial health official who asked not to be named said Sunday’s bombing killed eight people and wounded 57 others, while a source at Ramadi Hospital put the toll at 13 dead, including six police officers, and 41 wounded.
A police source said 11 people, including six policemen, were killed and 41 others wounded.
The police source said a car bomb exploded at the entrance to the office complex, which also houses the police headquarters for the province and other government buildings.
A simultaneous explosion took place nearby at a bus terminal, two police sources said.
Iraq has been without a new government since an inconclusive election in March, and the country’s main factions squabbled for months before reaching a deal that includes all major parties last month.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was formally charged on November 25 to put together a cabinet and had 30 days to deliver according to a constitutional deadline.
Although overall violence in Iraq has declined from the height of sectarian warfare in 2006-7, bombings and attacks still occur daily.
Sunday’s attack occurred just days before Ashura, the Shi’ite religious commemoration of the slaying of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Hussein at the battle of Kerbala in 680 AD. The event defines Shi’ism and its rift with Sunni Islam.