21 Iraqis killed in suicide attacks

Times Staff Writer

Suicide bombers struck a funeral west of this capital and an Iraqi army post to the south Wednesday, killing at least 21 people in attacks that coincided with an Iraqi military offensive in Mosul against Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The bombings were characteristic of attacks carried out by Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni Arab insurgent group that has set up base in the northern city of Mosul after being driven out of Diyala and Anbar provinces farther south.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki traveled to Mosul to oversee the offensive there, a trip reminiscent of the one he made to Basra in late March when he sent his military into the southern city to crack down on Shiite Muslim militiamen.

The Basra offensive erupted into bloodshed involving militiamen and Iraqi, U.S. and British troops. Though no one has claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, their timing suggests that Al Qaeda in Iraq might respond to the Mosul crackdown with attacks elsewhere.


But unlike the Basra offensive, which galvanized followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr to rise up against security forces, the Mosul operation is expected to have much less of a ripple effect. Unlike Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, which was blamed for at least some of the post-Basra violence, Al Qaeda in Iraq lacks popular support, and its numbers are far fewer than the Shiite militia’s estimated 60,000 fighters.

In Mosul, Maliki met with lawmakers representing the area. In a statement released by his office later, the prime minister said the government would not let “Mosul remain captive like the cities of Ramadi, Fallouja, Basra and Sadr City,” areas beset at times by militia and insurgent activity.

The worst of Wednesday’s attacks was in the village of Sadan, about 40 miles west of Baghdad in Anbar. Police said a man strapped with explosives walked into a funeral about 6:15 p.m. and detonated his bomb.

The service was being held for Taha Obaid Zubai, a teacher assassinated a day earlier in front of his school by attackers who used a pistol fitted with a silencer. Zubai was a member of the Islamic Party, one of the main Sunni political groups in Iraq. His cousin, Faisal Zubai, is the Fallouja police commander.

Police said 21 people, including the bomber, were killed and 15 wounded.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has targeted police and teachers as it tries to undermine state-run security services and institutions. But it was unclear whether Zubai’s political ties were a motive for the attack.

Earlier in the day, there were two assassination attempts on Islamic Party lawmakers in Baghdad. Both lawmakers escaped injury, but three people were reported killed in one of the attacks, in which a bomb planted outside the party’s offices went off.

South of Baghdad, a woman blew up explosives she was carrying near an Iraqi army position. One Iraqi soldier was killed and seven were injured. The U.S. military has said that Al Qaeda in Iraq has been turning to women to stage attacks, and the attack was the 14th by a woman this year.



Special correspondents in Baghdad contributed to this report.