A suicide bomber exploded his vest inside a house in central Iraq, killing four tribal leaders spearheading the fight against al-Qaeda in Diyala Province, police and the US military said yesterday.
The attack took place on Friday evening in the home of Sheikh Taha al-Obeidi in the village of Dojemah, near the town of Khalis about 50km north of Baghdad, Khalis police official Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed al-Obeidi said.
"Several people were inside the house. The explosion killed four tribal leaders, all members of the Diyala Awakening Council," he said. "The chief of the Awakening council in Khalis district, Sheik Fayez Lafta, was among those killed."
A US military statement said Lafta and two other people had been killed in what it said was a bombing, but the statement gave few other details.
A doctor at the hospital in Khalis said the facility had received the bodies of four people.
Awakening Councils have sprung up across Iraq, structured on the lines of the Anbar Awakening Council formed by Sunni tribal sheiks in the western Iraqi province of Anbar to fight the al-Qaeda in Iraq group.
Al-Qaeda has issued warnings saying it will target leaders working alongside the US military against insurgents, and the group claimed the Sept. 13 car bomb killing of the leader of the Anbar Awakening Council, Abdul Sattar Abu Reesha.
On Oct. 4, a roadside bomb near the city of Samarra killed the leader of the Awakening Council of central Salaheddin Province, Sheikh Maawia Naji Jebara, and wounded his deputy Sheikh Sabah Mutashar al-Shimmary.
Meanwhile, a suicide bomber blew himself up early yesterday in a failed attack in northern Afghanistan, an area recovering from a recent blast that killed nearly 80 people, police said.
Northern Afghanistan had seen relatively little of the Taliban-led insurgency plaguing the south and east, but insurgents have vowed to step up their attacks.
Security forces in the town of Kunduz were tipped off about a possible suicide attack using a car bomb and chased a suspicious vehicle yesterday, provincial police chief Bashir Salangi said.
"The man knew police were following him and he exploded himself," Salangi said.
The explosion was about seven kilometers outside of the town.
The bomb injured a security officer, Salangi said.
A spokesman for the extremist Taliban movement, Zabihullah Mujahed, said in a telephone call that his group was responsible.
The attacker's intended target was not clear.
Several hundred German troops are stationed in Kunduz and three soldiers were killed in a suicide blast in May that also claimed the lives of six Afghan civilians.
The Taliban have been behind most of about 130 suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year, a majority targeting Afghan or international security forces.
However, the extremist group denied any involvement in a blast on Tuesday that killed nearly 80 people, including 59 children and six parliamentarians, outside the town of Pul-i-Khumri, 50km southwest of Kunduz.
Officials have issued different death tolls for the blast, the worst in the insurgency-hit country.
The Taliban have pledged to step up a campaign of suicide attacks in Afghanistan as part of an extremist insurgency that was launched after they were ousted from power in 2001 by a US-led force.