A female suicide bomber concealing explosives beneath her black robe struck outside a government complex northeast of Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 40, US and Iraqi officials said.
It was the 21st suicide mission carried out by a woman in Iraq this year, the US military said, as al-Qaeda and other Sunni militant groups try to regroup from major losses suffered at the hands of US and Iraqi forces.
The blast occurred about 1pm on Sunday as dozens of people were leaving a walled compound that includes a courthouse and the provincial governor’s office in Baqubah, capital of Diyala Province and a former al-Qaeda in Iraq stronghold 56km northeast of Baghdad.
A car bomb across the street from the same compound killed at least 40 people in April.
A US military statement said the dead included seven Iraqi police and eight civilians. Ten police were among the wounded. Iraqi authorities said 16 people were killed and 42 wounded.
“I was trying to leave the court when the explosion took place,” said one witness, who was wounded by shrapnel but refused to give his name because of fears for his own safety.
“I heard some of the injured people saying they saw a woman wearing a black robe blow herself up” he said.
Al-Qaeda has been increasingly using women because their black, billowing abaya robes easily conceal explosives. Iraqi police often lack enough policewomen to search women carefully.
The number of female suicide attacks has risen from eight last year to 21 so far this year, US military figures said. Eight of the attacks were in Diyala Province.
Last year, US soldiers regained control of Baqubah, which had been declared the capital of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda front organization.
But the terror movement has been trying to regroup in strategic Diyala Province, which extends from the Iranian border to the eastern gates of Baghdad.
To the north, a roadside bomb on Sunday apparently targeting a police patrol struck a civilian vehicle instead, killing four people, near Kirkuk, police reported.
A suicide car bomber attacked a police checkpoint on Sunday in the northwestern city of Mosul, wounding 14 people, including four policemen, provincial police said.
The violence occurred as US and Iraqi authorities were trying to meet a July target for completing a security agreement that would allow US troops to remain in the country after the UN mandate expires at the end of this year.
Talks bogged down over several key issues, which Iraqi lawmakers said violated the nation’s sovereignty. Last week, however, Iraqi authorities said prospects for a deal had brightened after the US submitted new, unspecified proposals.
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