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2 suicide blasts targeting officials kill 22 in Iraq

Times Staff Writers

Two suicide car bombs targeting a police chief and a tribal leader who had worked with U.S. and counterinsurgency Iraqi forces killed 22 people in northern Iraq on Tuesday, police said.

They were among 40 Iraqis killed in a wave of attacks that coincided with insurgent threats to step up violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In addition, police said that they found the bodies of eight people believed to be victims of sectarian slayings in Baghdad.

The worst attacks came in Baiji, 125 miles north of Baghdad, and occurred minutes apart. The first bomb targeted the police commander’s house. The other went off a few hundred feet away at the home of the local leader of an alliance of tribal sheiks opposed to the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq.

It was not immediately clear whether the police chief and sheik were among the dead.

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Police put the death toll at 22. U.S. military officials said their initial reports were that seven people had died.

Insurgents have killed several tribal leaders and police officials, and their attacks have increased in recent months as more tribes, many of which once harbored rebel fighters, turn against them. Last month, a bomb killed Sheik Abdul Sattar Rishawi of Anbar province, who is considered the founder of the tribal counterinsurgency movement.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack in Baiji, but suspicion fell on the group Al Qaeda in Iraq, which on a website claimed to have killed Rishawi. The blasts flattened several homes. Heavy machinery was brought in to dig through the rubble and search for victims.

In Baghdad, a car bomb exploded near the Khilani mosque in central Baghdad just before noon, killing six people and injuring 29.

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A witness, Kamil Hasan, 40, said he helped evacuate people until emergency crews arrived.

“It was a strong explosion, and I saw a big fireball and then smoke covered the place,” he said. “I saw burned bodies, and injured people were lying in the street. There were burned cars. There were blood pools.”

Another car bomb near a gas station in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Bunook killed two and injured five as motorists were waiting in line for fuel. A car bomb in Baghdad’s Shaab neighborhood killed two people and wounded 16, police said.

Elsewhere in the capital, gunmen were said to have stormed the home of a Shiite Kurdish family in Saidiya, killing a father, son, another relative and a neighbor. In the Zafaraniya neighborhood, two roadside bombs killed two and injured 10, some of them women and children who were in a minibus, police said.

In Kirkuk, 150 miles north of Baghdad, police said a bomb killed two people.

tina.susman@latimes.com

christian.berthelsen @latimes.com

Times staff writers Raheem Salman, Wail Alhafith, Usama Redha and Said Rifai as well as special correspondents throughout Iraq contributed to this report.

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