At least 23 people were killed and 44 wounded in a suicide bomb attack in central Iraq aimed at Anti-Al-Qaeda soldiers, officials say.
The victims were members of the Sahwa, or Anti-Al-Qaeda militias, but some soldiers were also among the casualties. The attack struck at 11:00 am (0800 GMT) in the town of Taji, 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of Baghdad.
Ali Khalaf, one of the wounded, blamed the army for the attack, since many of the victims died because security forces did not approach the scene immediately as they were afraid of a second explosion.
“It’s a very awful and ugly attack,” Raad Faisal Abbas, the town mayor, said “the victims are all young men, just trying to do a good job for their country.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet, but four days ago, an audio message, allegedly read by Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, encouraged Iraqi Sunnis to take arms against the Maliki’s government.
The Sahwa (also known as the Sons of Iraq or the Awakening) are made up of a collection of Sunni tribal militias that sided with the US military against Al-Qaeda from late-2006 onwards. They are often targeted by Sunni militants linked to Al-Qaeda who regard them as traitors.
Last Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani told a news conference that Sahwa fighters were about to receive a rise of 500,000 Iraqi dinars ($415) a month, up from 300,000 dinars ($250).
Yesterday, there was a suicide car bombing followed by a grenade attack in central Kirkuk, a disputed ethnically mixed city of northern Iraq, which killed 30 people. Though no organisations claimed responsibility, local security officials blamed Al-Qaeda’s front group in Iraq.
Image by Jayel Aheram