BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Gunmen attacked the home of a police chief north of Baghdad on Friday, killing 14 people including his wife and brothers, and kidnapping his four children, police sources said.
South of the capital, a minibus packed with weapons and explosives blew up at a bus terminal in a market in the town of Qurna. Hospital sources said 15 people were killed and 32 wounded in the blast, while police said eight died.
In the northern Iraqi town of Dakok, a car bomb exploded outside a Shi’ite mosque just after Friday prayers, killing 10 people and wounding 10, police said.
In Baquba, one of the most dangerous cities in Iraq and the capital of the volatile Diyala province, gunmen attacked the home of police chief Colonel Ali Dilayan Ahmed, killing 11 of his bodyguards, his two brothers and his wife, police said.
Ahmed’s two daughters and two sons were also abducted, police said. The police chief was at home at the time of the attack, in which the gunmen first fired rocket-propelled grenades at the building and then stormed inside.
A local official, who asked not to be identified, said Ahmed had been directly responsible for the killing of three al Qaeda fighters in Diyala this week. The province is a hotbed of al Qaeda fighters.
Hours later a police major general and a lieutenant colonel were killed when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle as they drove to Baquba to attend a security meeting, police said.
The province has seen a spike in violence as a U.S.-backed crackdown in Baghdad drives militants out of the capital into surrounding towns and cities. The U.S. military has sent an armoured force of 3,000 extra troops to combat the surge.
U.S. and Iraqi troops backed by attack aircraft killed 19 suspected insurgents near Baquba on Tuesday. Two Iraqi soldiers also died in the operation.
The U.S. military says Sunni Arab and Shi’ite militants have migrated from Baghdad into Diyala and the neighbouring province of Salahaddin, where they have launched numerous attacks on civilians and U.S. and Iraqi forces.
Diyala is now one of the most dangerous regions in Iraq for U.S. troops, with soldiers dying there almost every day. The U.S. death toll crept over the 3,500 mark this week after U.S. forces in May suffered their third-worst month since the start of the war in 2003 and had a bloody start to June.
Diyala, a mainly Sunni Arab province that also has significant Shi’ite and Kurdish populations, has seen some of the worst violence since the U.S.-led invasion.
The mainly Shi’ite south of the country is more stable, although rival militias there are fighting a turf war for control, especially in Basra, the hub of the southern oilfields that generate most of Iraq’s revenues.
North of Basra, in the town of Qurna, police said a minibus packed with Katyusha rockets, mortar bombs and fuel blew up in a bus terminal, killing eight people and wounding 28.
Major-General Ali Hamadi, the head of the provincial Basra emergency security committee, said the rockets and bombs had “cooked off” in the sweltering heat. The vehicle had been parked at the terminal for about 24 hours, he said.
The weapons had been destined for Baghdad, epicentre of the country’s sectarian violence between minority Sunnis and majority Shi’ites, Hamadi told Reuters. He said the manager of the terminal and two others were arrested. The minibus explosion caused a car parked nearby to explode, leading to initial reports that there had been two car bombs, he added.