A woman blew herself up Thursday near U.S.-allied Sunni Arab fighters walking in a crowded area of Baqubah, killing at least eight members of the Awakening movement and wounding 24 people, police said.
The attack comes as the U.S.-backed Iraqi military is promising to launch a major offensive in Diyala province aimed at taming the last major insurgent belt north of Baghdad. Baqubah is the provincial capital.
A police officer and witnesses said the local Awakening chief, Naim Dulaimi, was killed along with seven bodyguards.
The U.S. military in northern Iraq said troops were investigating the bombing and that it could not immediately confirm that the attacker was a woman.
The U.S. military has credited Sunni Arabs’ turn against Al Qaeda as a key factor in bringing Iraq’s violence to its lowest point in more than four years. Also cited are the U.S. troop buildup and a cease-fire that anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr imposed on his Shiite Muslim militia.
Baqubah and other areas in Diyala have been hit by bombings in recent months. Two suicide bombers attacked army recruits at a Baqubah military base last week, killing at least 28 people and wounding 57.
Earlier Thursday, three Awakening members were killed in drive-by shootings at checkpoints in the Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya in north Baghdad, a leading member of the group said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.
Also in Baghdad, Abdul-Rahman Dawood, a leading figure in the Islamic Dawa Party, was wounded when a bomb exploded near his house. The Shiite political party is headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.