Truck bomb kills at least 20 north of Baghdad

A suicide truck bomb killed at least 20 people and wounded 80 in the northern Iraqi city of Baiji on Tuesday, the United States military and police said, in one of the deadliest attacks in Iraq in two weeks.

A Reuters photographer on the scene said the attack targeted a security checkpoint on a road leading to a residential compound housing employees of Northern Oil Company.

Baiji police chief Saad Nufous said 20 people were killed and 81 wounded in the blast.

Iraqi army Major Shami Mohammed, an official at the Iraqi-US Joint Coordination centre in Salahuddin province, gave the same death toll and said most of the casualties were civilians, including women and children. He said they had been queueing near a gas station.

An Interior Ministry official put the death toll at 25.

The US military said its information suggested 20 people had been killed in the blast.

The Reuters photographer said the blast set six vehicles ablaze and left a large crater in the road. Four apartment blocks in the residential complex were severely damaged.

There were conflicting reports over whether those manning the checkpoint included members of local neighbourhood patrols, volunteer fighters who are working with the US military to fight Sunni Islamist al-Qaeda.

US and Iraqi officials credit the neighbourhood patrols as one factor behind the sharp drop in violence across Iraq in recent months, but the mainly Sunni Muslim groups have come under many attacks from al-Qaeda gunmen.

The attack on Tuesday was the worst since December 12 when a triple car bombing in the southern city of Amara killed 40 and wounded 125.
- Reuters

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