/ 17 April 2008

Iraq suicide bomber slaughters dozens

A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowd of mourners in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 50 people, a police officer said.

The man detonated an explosives vest in the crowd in the Sunni Arab village of Bu Mohammed, 120km south of the oil city of Kirkuk, at about 11am local time, Captain Abdullah Jassim said.

Doctor Jawdat Abdullah from the hospital in al-Tuz, near Bu Mohammed village, confirmed the attack, saying his facility was receiving the wounded, some of whom were seriously hurt.

Jassim said the crowd had gathered to present their condolences over the deaths of two members of a local group fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq who were killed two days ago.

Tens of thousands of Sunni Arabs have formed local groups across Iraq backed by the United States military to battle al-Qaeda militants. These groups, mostly former allies of al-Qaeda, have been increasingly targeted by the jihadist group in the past several months.

Imad Abdullah al-Azzawi, a witness who survived the suicide attack, said the bomber blew himself inside the tent where the condolence meeting was taking place. ”There are bodies and body parts scattered everywhere. There is blood everywhere,” he said.

The latest attack came just two days after a suicide bomber killed at least 13 people in the western city of Ramadi, a former stronghold of Sunni insurgents. Several of those killed were also members of a local anti-al-Qaeda group in Ramadi, the capital of the Sunni Arab province of Anbar.

Also on Tuesday, a car bomb killed at least 42 people and wounded dozens outside a courthouse in the central city of Baquba.

The attacks in Ramadi and Baquba were blamed on al-Qaeda by the US military.

Thursday’s killings come a day after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said al-Qaeda was being isolated in Iraq. ”We are determined to defeat terrorism,” the Iraqi leader told the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee during a visit to Brussels.

He declared ”we are more confident than ever that we are close to a definitive victory over al-Qaeda and its lawless allies”.

Maliki said al-Qaeda was in a state of ”total isolation” in Iraq and was seeking ”refuge beyond the borders” in neighbouring nations. ”We call on neighbouring countries to dry up the roots of terrorism and prevent the terrorists from filtering into Iraq,” he said. — Sapa-AFP