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49 die in Iraq suicide attack

world Updated: Apr 17, 2008 23:08 IST

Reuters
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A suicide bomber struck a funeral in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing 49 mourners and wounding 55 in an attack that suggests militants have launched a new campaign of violence in the north.

Survivors said the funeral had been for two members of a US-backed neighbourhood security unit who were killed on Wednesday. Blame is likely to fall on the Al Qaeda, which has vowed to target the neighbourhood units because they work with US forces.

The attack was one of the deadliest in Iraq for months and underscored the ability of militants to wreak havoc despite overall falls in violence that have prompted the United States to start withdrawing troops from Iraq.

Police said the bomber detonated a suicide vest after entering the funeral tent in a Sunni Arab village near the town of Adhaim in Diyala province.

"Suddenly a fireball filled the funeral tent. I fell to the ground. I saw bodies scattered everywhere," said wounded mourner Ali Khalaf, who was taken to a hospital in the nearby town of Tuz Khurmato for treatment.

Northern Iraq has seen an upsurge in bombings this week, including one that killed 40 people in the town of Baquba, capital of Diyala province, on Tuesday.

The US-backed neighbourhood security units, called "Concerned Local Citizens" by the US military, have been credited with helping to bring down violence in Iraq.

US and Iraqi authorities say Al Qaeda militants have moved into northern provinces after being pushed out of the westerly Anbar province, their former stronghold, and Baghdad.

Al Qaeda militants are frequently blamed for attacks on funerals, which are often held with little security. The group also has a history of striking with car bombs near government targets and civilian crowds.