Suicide bomber kills 21in Iraqi town
Blast is first major attack in a month
BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt killed at least 21 people, mostly Shi’ites, yesterday in a town north of Baghdad, shattering what had been weeks of relative calm, the mayor said.
The blast in Balad Ruz emphasized the delicate nature of Iraq’s security gains and occurred as the country is approaches its eighth month without a new government since the March elections.
The suicide bomber blew himself up inside a popular cafe, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, as people were gathered to play dominoes and drink tea, said the town’s mayor, Mohammed Maaruf. An additional 65 people were injured, he said.
The neighborhood is home to many Faili Kurds, a small sect of ethnic Kurds following the Shi’ite branch of Islam, and many of the dead were Shi’ites.
Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, blasts targeting Shi’ites are often the work of Sunni insurgents trying to stir sectarian problems.
While scattered violence occurs almost daily in Iraq, last night’s blast broke what has been a time of comparative quiet across Iraq. The last such major attack came Sept. 19 when twin bombings in Baghdad killed at least 31 people.
Diyala Province, with a mixed population of Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Kurds, was one of the most volatile in Iraq but recent years have seen a drop in violence.
Also yesterday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch denounced the Kurdish regional government’s investigation into the slaying of a Kurdish journalist critical of authorities in Iraq.
Freelance journalist Sardasht Othman’s handcuffed and bullet-ridden body was found near the restive northern Iraqi city of Mosul, and authorities concluded he had been killed by insurgents.
Many Kurds in the autonomous region where he lived blamed the government for his killing and staged dozens of huge protests demanding the perpetrators be brought to justice.
Kurdish government officials have denied any involvement in Othman’s death, and in a report last month concluded he had ties to Sunni militants in Mosul who ultimately killed him.