Rare suicide attack in southern Iraq kills 22; officials blame al-Qaida in Iraq

Twin explosions, including a suicide car bombing outside a government compound, killed at least 22 people Tuesday in a rare attack in the mainly Shiite south that signalled insurgents could be trying to expand their reach.

BAGHDAD — Twin explosions, including a suicide car bombing outside a government compound, killed at least 22 people Tuesday in a rare attack in the mainly Shiite south that signalled insurgents could be trying to expand their reach.

The violence comes as Iraqi officials are weighing whether to ask some of the roughly 47,000 U.S. forces still in the country to stay past this year. Many are concerned Iraqi forces aren’t ready to take over their own security, and al-Qaida-linked militants will try to take advantage of the vacuum.

Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s strike in Diwaniyah, 80 miles (130 kilometres) south of Baghdad. But the fact that it was a suicide bomber targeting an Iraqi government building pointed to Sunni extremists such as al-Qaida in Iraq.

Shiite officials were quick to blame the terror network and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s ousted Baath Party.

The last major attacks in Diwaniyah were in 2009, when a bomb attached to a bus killed six people, and in 2007, when a roadside bomb killed seven police officers. But most of the past bloodshed in the area has been between Shiite militias fighting each other or the U.S. military before violence ebbed a few years ago.

“We did not expect that our province would be the next target. We thought we were safe here in the south, but it seems that al-Qaida and the Baathists want to destabilize the whole country,” said Thamir Naji, a member of the Qadasiyah provincial council, which includes Diwaniyah.

Provincial Gov. Salim Hussein Alwan said he was leaving his house in a heavily fortified compound when a suicide bomber rammed into a police checkpoint outside the surrounding high walls.

“I was in the garage preparing to leave when the attacker hit the police barrier outside and crashed with their vehicle,” Alwan told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

The suicide bomber also crashed into a police vehicle that had munitions inside, causing it to explode, said Alwan and Maj. Gen. Othman al-Ghanimy, who commands provincial military operations.

Naji said two suicide bombers detonated explosives-laden vehicles. A police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information, also said there were two suicide car bombers.

Conflicting accounts are common in the chaotic aftermath of such attacks.

Police and hospital officials who gave the death toll said at least 37 people also were wounded in the morning blasts, which went off when security forces were changing shifts.

U.S. forces, including an explosives ordnance team, were dispatched to assist the Iraqis, military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan said.

The entrance to the compound was destroyed and nearby houses collapsed, said Naji. He described a horrific scene with blood pooling on the ground and body parts thrown so far they landed on nearby houses.

Sunni insurgents have often targeted areas closer to former insurgent strongholds surrounding Baghdad, such as the city of Hillah. But it’s less common for Sunni militants to reach so deep into the Shiite heartland.

Iraqi officials said al-Qaida is trying to increase its presence in the area.

“The recent reports indicate that al-Qaida exists in all of the Middle Euphrates provinces, especially in Diwaniyah,” al-Ghanimy said, referring to the river that runs south through Iraq. “It is a message to prove that it exists and can reach its targets.”

Hamid al-Mutlaq, a Sunni lawmaker and member of the parliament’s security and defence committees, blamed the attack on the prime minister’s failure to fill the top security posts in the interior and defence ministries more than five months after he seated his second government.

“We have said before that there is a failure in the security forces and they are infiltrated,” al-Mutlaq said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Flags bearers hold the Canadian flag high during the Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake in this October file photo. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
New project to pay tribute to Canadians killed in Afghanistan

Flags of Remembrance scheduled for Sept. 11

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates, from left to right, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

CALGARY — It took Sean Monahan breaking out of his goal-scoring slump… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented… Continue reading

A grizzly bear walks on a treadmill as Dr. Charles Robbins, right, offers treats as rewards at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center in this undated handout photo. Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails like those commonly used by people, which can affect land management practices in wild areas, says an expert who has written a paper on their travel patterns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Anthony Carnahan *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Grizzly bears prefer walking on gentle slopes at a leisurely pace like humans: study

VANCOUVER — Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails… Continue reading

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that's surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
The COVID-19 wasteland: searching for clues to the pandemic in the sewers

OTTAWA — When Ottawa Public Health officials are trying to decide whether… Continue reading

Most Read