Suicide bombers attack Iraq militia, kill over 40

BAGHDAD,  (Reuters) – A suicide bomber attacked government-backed Sunni militia yesterday as they lined up to be  paid on Baghdad’s southwestern outskirts, killing at least 39  and wounding 41, Iraqi security sources said.

In a second attack, a suicide bomber killed four and wounded  six at a meeting of local Sunni militia leaders in western Iraq, near the Syrian border, police in Anbar province said.

The blast outside an Iraqi military base in the Sunni district of Radwaniya and the attack in Qaim in Anbar occurred  as political deadlock continued following a March election that  produced no outright winner and as yet no new government.

Sunni Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda have sought to  exploit the political vacuum created by a failure of Sunni,  Shi’ite and Kurdish factions to agree on a coalition government, and have carried out a series of attacks since the vote.

In yesterday’s bloodiest blast, the suicide bomber blew himself  up among “Sahwa” militiamen, Sunni fighters who once allied with  al Qaeda but turned on the militant group in 2006/07, helping  U.S. forces turn the tide in the war.

“There were more than 85 people lined up in three lines at  the main gate of the military base to receive salaries when a  person approached us. When one of the soldiers tried to stop  him, he blew himself up,” a survivor, 20-year-old Tayseer  Mehsen, said at Mahmudiya hospital.

“I lost consciousness and woke up to find myself in   hospital.”

All of the dead were Sahwa, while two soldiers numbered  among the wounded, an Interior Ministry source said. Another  security source said two of the dead were military officers. Police put the number of dead at 39, but the Interior  Ministry source said 43 had died. Conflicting death tolls are  common in the chaos after an explosion.

Local militia leader Mohammed al-Anbari said it was possible  the attacker came from within Sahwa ranks. “There were no  strangers among us,” he said.    There have been a series of attacks against Sahwa leaders in  Sunni areas around Baghdad in recent months, many attributed to  acts of revenge by former fellow insurgents, or al Qaeda. Some  have been blamed on long-running blood feuds between families.

The sectarian war between once dominant Sunnis and majority  Shi’ites that kicked off after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion has  largely subsided but a Sunni Islamist insurgency persists.

The U.S. military has increasingly taken a backseat role  since pulling out of Iraqi urban centres in June last year and  U.S. troops will end combat operations on Aug. 31 ahead of a  full withdrawal next year.

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