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September 21, 2013

Funeral bombing, other attacks in Iraq kill 65

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden car near a funeral tent packed with mourners and another bomber on foot blew himself up nearby in a Shiite part of Baghdad early Saturday evening, the deadliest assault in a day of attacks that claimed at least 65 lives in Iraq.

The strikes are the latest in a months-long surge of violence that is raising fears Iraq is slipping back toward the widespread sectarian killings that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion a decade ago.

The attack on the funeral happened around dusk in the densely populated Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in northeastern Baghdad.

Police said at least 54 people were killed and more than 70 were wounded. One bomber was able to drive up near the tent before detonating his deadly payload, and another on foot blew himself up nearby.

The explosions set several nearby cars on fire, sending a towering plume of thick black smoke over the city.

The attack happened hours after insurgents launched a suicide attack on a police headquarters in the city of Beiji, killing seven policemen and wounding 21 others.

In that attack, police said four suicide bombers stormed a base for police commandos. Guards managed to kill one suicide bomber, but the three other bombers were able to set off their explosive belts inside the compound, police said. Beiji, a center for oil refining, is 250 kilometers (115 miles) north of Baghdad.

The police said that most of the members of the commando unit were not in the compound at the time of the attack because they were carrying out a security operation outside the city. Casualty figures would have been higher had they been inside, the police said.

In other violence, gunmen shot and killed two prison guards after storming their houses in a village near the city of Mosul early Saturday. Also in Mosul, two soldiers were killed and four others were wounded when a roadside bomb struck their convoy. Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, is a former militant stronghold.

Medics in nearby hospitals confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the day’s attacks. Al-Qaida’s local franchise in Iraq frequently targets Shiite civilians and security forces in an attempt to undermine public confidence in the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

More than 4,000 people have been killed between April and August, U.N. figures show. More than 400 have been killed so far in September, according to an Associated Press tally.

Saturday’s violence comes as voters in the northern Kurdish autonomous region cast ballots in local elections for the Kurdistan Regional Government’s 111-seat legislature. Iraqi Kurds are looking to bolster their autonomy while insulating their increasingly prosperous enclave from the growing violence roiling the rest of the country.

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