Suicide bomber kills 22 in attack on Iraq militia

Mon Feb 4, 2013 10:03am EST
 

By Kareem Raheem

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber attacked a government-backed militia in Iraq on Monday, killing at least 22 people in an apparent attempt by Sunni insurgents to provoke unrest against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Dressed in civilian clothes, the bomber infiltrated a meeting of Sahwa tribal fighters and detonated his explosives as they picked up salaries in Taji, a town 20 km (12 miles) north of the capital Baghdad, police said.

It was the seventh suicide bombing in a month in Iraq, indicating insurgents are intent on stepping up violence a year after U.S. troops pulled out of the country, where Shi'ite, Sunni and ethnic Kurdish factions still struggle over how to share power.

"We got a call there had been a huge blast on the Sahwa headquarters in Taji. The Sahwa were there to collect their pay," said local police commissioner Furat Faleh. "When we rushed to the hall ... people were lying bleeding all around and cash was scattered in pools of blood."

The Sahwa or "Sons of Iraq" are former Sunni insurgents who rebelled against al Qaeda in the Sunni heartland province of Anbar at the height of the Iraq war and helped American troops to turn the tide of the conflict.

No group claimed responsibility for Monday's attack but al Qaeda's affiliate, Islamic State of Iraq, has often targeted Sahwa, pledging to take back ground lost to American and U.S. forces, and has urged Sunnis to rise up against Maliki.

The Shi'ite prime minister has been struggling to end mass protests by Sunni Muslims against what they see as the marginalization of their sect since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of Iraq's Shi'ite majority through the ballot box.

SUNNI ANGER   Continued...