BAGHDAD, (AP) – Mourners fired guns in the air to show their grief Monday at the funeral of a U.S.-allied Sunni leader killed by a suicide bomber in Baghdad.
Iraqi officials raised the death toll from Sunday night’s attack to 10.
At least 20 people also were wounded, the officials said, declining to be identified because they weren’t authorized to release the information. The U.S. military put the toll at eight dead, including six U.S.-allied fighters, and 12 wounded.
The blast raised special concern because it occurred in the heart of the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Azamiyah, a former insurgent stronghold that has been surrounded by a concrete wall in a bid by the U.S. military to stop violence.
The apparent target of the attack was Farooq al-Obeidi, deputy leader of the local awakening council, a group paid by U.S. officials to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The attacker had disguised himself in a black Islamic robe traditionally worn by women, officials and witnesses said.
He was sitting on a bench near a fountain next to the Sunni area’s revered Abu Hanifa mosque, watching al-Obeidi and his guards near a checkpoint, another member of the group said.
The bomber approached the checkpoint where council members were chatting, then detonated his explosives when a guard became suspicious and tried to push him away, according to a witness who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.
Such attacks have become rare in the center of Azamiyah since the U.S. military built a concrete wall around the heart of the north Baghdad neighborhood, where Saddam Hussein took refuge when the city fell to U.S. forces in April 2003.
Although Azamiyah was once a center of resistance to the U.S. and its Shiite allies, many local Sunnis later abandoned the insurgency and joined the awakening council, which provides security there alongside Iraqi soldiers and police.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq has often targeted leaders of awakening councils. But Khalil Ibrahim, an aide to al-Obeidi, said the attack also could have been carried out by rivals within the council itself.
“We had received information that we would be targeted by groups within Azamiyah and within the awakening movement itself,” he said, refusing to elaborate.