BAGHDAD, Iraq – A female suicide bomber and a car bombing killed 26 people in separate attacks Friday in Diyala province, the most volatile part of the country, Iraqi military and police officials said.
In the first attack, the bomber blew herself up in Muqdadiyah, 20 miles northeast of the provincial capital of Baqouba, killing 16 people and wounding 27. The attack targeted former Sunni insurgents who had recently aligned themselves with U.S. forces, said Col. Amer Ahmad al-Jubouri, the Muqdadiyah police chief.
Witnesses said the woman detonated a vest packed with explosives in front of the former insurgents’ headquarters as people were shopping nearby before Friday prayers.
Diyala, a religiously and ethnically mixed area, remains turbulent despite a downturn in violence nationwide. The region has attracted insurgents from al-Qaida in Iraq and other organizations since the U.S. military launched a major security offensive in Baghdad in February.
Speaking from a hospital bed, Ahmad Abbas Salman said the woman, dressed in a head-to-toe abaya, appeared “extremely agitated” and started yelling, which drew a crowd.
“And then suddenly there was this huge explosion,” Salman said. “A lot of women and children were among the victims.”
Although suicide bombings carried out by women are rare in Iraq, a similar attack wounded seven U.S. soldiers and five Iraqi civilians Nov. 27 in Baqouba, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.
Dhari al-Khaiyon, an official with the Diyala Provincial Council, said the bomber in Friday’s attack was a former member of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Iraqi security forces recently killed her two sons, who had joined al-Qaida in Iraq, the official said.
“She wanted to avenge the killing of her two sons,” Khaiyon said.
Later Friday, a car driven by a suicide bomber exploded at a checkpoint manned by Iraqi soldiers and another group of former Sunni insurgents near Mansouriyah, 35 miles north of Baqouba, said Brig. Gen. Muhammad al-Tamimi, a security official. The driver detonated the explosives when guards asked to search his car, killing 10 and wounding eight, Tamimi said.
Elsewhere, an explosion ripped through an oil pipeline complex near the town of al-Fatha, 50 miles west of Kirkuk, said Capt. Abdullah al-Obaidy, a security official. The blast destroyed several oil valves and sections of the pipeline system, sparking fires. Obaidy said it was not known whether the blast was caused by a rocket or an explosive charge.