Monday, December 27, 2010

Twin suicide blasts kill 9 in western Iraq

BAGHDAD – Two suicide bombers blew themselves up Monday front of a government office in Iraq's western Anbar province, killing nine people including family members of security officials who were killed in another bombing at the same place less than a month ago, security officials said.

Insurgents frequently go after Iraqi government targets in an effort to destabilize the US-backed Iraqi authorities, as American troops prepare to leave by the end of next year.

The Anbar provincial headquarters has been a particularly favorite target. It has been attacked four times in the span of a year, including an explosion in which the governor lost a leg.

Many of the people killed and injured in Monday's violence were family members of police and soldiers who died Dec. 12 at the same location in another suicide blast. The family members were at the provincial headquarters to receive compensation for their losses, said Mohammed Fathi, a spokesman for the Anbar governor.

He did not know how many of the dead were family members but said three policemen were killed in the Monday suicide attacks.

The first blast occurred when a suicide bomber drove a minibus packed with explosives into the entrance of the main government compound of Ramadi 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Fathi said.

As people gathered to observe the destruction, another suicide attacker detonated his explosive vest in their midst, said police and hospital officials.

The officials said besides the dead, 50 people were injured by the blasts. Consecutive blasts meant to catch bystanders and rescue personnel have become a hallmark of al-Qaida's tactics in Iraq in the past few years. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the double attack, but Fathi blamed it on al-Qaida.

Mosques across the city called on residents to donate blood, in a sign of the severity of the injuries.

Ramadi is the seat of the Anbar provincial government and used to be a stronghold of al-Qaida. Recently, local militias have managed to bring a measure of calm to the city and province, a drop in violence that has also been seen across the country.

The suicide bombings were the first major attacks since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's new government was appointed last week. Al-Maliki's success has been in large part due to the fact that violence has dropped significantly during his tenure. Attacks like Monday's are a sign that rooting out al-Qaida-linked militants is a continued challenge.

The Ramadi complex, which houses various government agencies, including the governor's offices, has been bombed twice this year.

In July, a female suicide bomber blew herself up at a reception room outside the governor's office. Earlier this month, a suicide bomber exploded outside the office complex, killing 17 people, including women and elderly people waiting to collect welfare checks.

The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida front group, claimed responsibility for a December 2009 bombing of the same complex. Anbar's Governor, Qasim al-Fahadawi, lost a leg in that blast.

In a separate incident Monday, three members of the same family were killed when a roadside bomb hit their car outside the town of Dujail, 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Baghdad. A 1-year-old child was also injured in the blast, police and hospital officials said.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters. — AP

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