BAGHDAD – A female suicide bomber concealing explosives beneath her black robe struck outside a government complex northeast of Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 40, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.
It was the 21st suicide mission carried out by a woman in Iraq this year, the U.S. military said, as al-Qaida and other Sunni militant groups try to regroup from major losses suffered at the hands of U.S. and Iraqi forces.
The blast occurred about 1 p.m. as dozens of people were leaving a walled compound that includes a courthouse and the provincial governor’s office in Baqouba, capital of Diyala province and a former al-Qaida in Iraq stronghold 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.
A car bomb across the street from the same compound killed at least 40 people in April.
It appeared that the latest attack was timed to maximize casualties; many people were leaving the compound because the government offices there were to close soon for the day.
A U.S. military statement said the dead included seven Iraqi police and eight civilians. Ten police were among the wounded. Iraqi authorities said 16 people were killed and 42 wounded.
Al-Qaida has been increasingly using women because their black, billowing abaya robes easily conceal explosives. Iraqi police often lack enough policewomen to search women carefully.
Last year, U.S. soldiers regained control of Baqouba, which had been declared the capital of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida front organization. But the terror movement has been trying to regroup in the strategic Diyala province, which extends from the Iranian border to the eastern gates of Baghdad.
To the north, a roadside bomb Sunday apparently targeting a police patrol struck a civilian vehicle instead, killing four people, near Kirkuk, police reported. A suicide car bomber attacked a police checkpoint Sunday in the northwestern city of Mosul, wounding 14 people, including four policemen, provincial police said.
The violence occurred as U.S. and Iraqi authorities are trying to meet a July target date for completing a security agreement that would allow American troops to remain in the country after the U.N. mandate expires at the end of this year.