RAMADI, Iraq (AFP) – At least 18 people, most of them members of Iraq’s security forces, were killed and dozens wounded in bomb attacks on Monday, the worst violence to hit the country in more than two weeks.
In the deadliest incident, a suicide attacker killed seven police and wounded 10 when he blew up a water tanker packed with explosives at a quick response unit’s headquarters on the highway from the western city of Ramadi towards Jordan and Syria.
A police officer, who gave the toll, said the attack was carried out 35 kilometres (20 miles) west of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, which was a key insurgent base in the aftermath of the US-led invasion in 2003.
Violence in the predominantly Sunni Arab city has dropped dramatically in recent years, although a similar suicide car bomb killed eight people at a security checkpoint there on September 7.
Anbar, Iraq’s biggest province, became the theatre of a brutal war focused on the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, while several towns along the Euphrates river valley became Al-Qaeda strongholds and later safe havens for insurgents.
But since 2006 local Sunni tribes have sided with the US military and unrest has dwindled as rebel fighters have been ejected from the region.
Elsewhere on Monday, five soldiers were killed and 28 people — including nine troops and an unknown number of policemen — were wounded by back-to-back bombs in western Baghdad, an interior ministry official said.
The first explosion, a homemade bomb targeting an army patrol, wounded just one civilian and caused some damage but a secondary device inflicted fatalities.
“As the army and some civilians gathered and police arrived on the scene, another IED (improvised-explosive device) exploded nearby,” killing five soldiers and wounding 28 people, an official said on condition of anonymity.
In a further attack, in the southern province of Diwaniyah, a bomb went off inside a minibus, killing three people and wounding five, a hospital official said.
In the restive northern city of Mosul, two policemen were killed and two wounded by a roadside bomb that targeted a patrol in the centre of the city at around 3:00 pm (1200 GMT), a police official said.
A policeman was also killed in similar circumstances in Baquba, north of Baghdad.
Monday’s death toll of 18 was the highest since September 10, when at least 26 people were killed in violence across the country.
The number of violent deaths in Iraq hit a 13-month high in August, raising fresh concerns about stability after the government admitted that security is worsening.
Government statistics showed that 456 people — 393 civilians, 48 police and 15 Iraqi soldiers — were killed last month. That was the highest such toll since July 2008, when 465 died.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sent extra troops to the west of the country three weeks ago to secure the border with Syria, which he has repeatedly accused of giving terrorists the shelter needed to mount attacks inside Iraq.