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String of bomb attacks continues in Iraq

In a third straight day of assaults, a car bomb destroys the headquarters of a security force in Diyala province, killing as many as 14. A separate bombing wounds a Diyala official and kills three others.

January 20, 2011|By Ned Parker and Salar Jaff, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Baghdad — A car bomb leveled the headquarters of a local security force in Iraq's Diyala province, killing as many as 14 people. In a separate attack, a bomber wounded the deputy head of Diyala's provincial council and killed three others.

It was the third straight day of attacks around the country, most targeting places where Iraq's minority Sunni Arabs, once the bedrock of the country's insurgency, have decided to participate in government. On Tuesday, a bomber killed 60 people seeking jobs with police in Tikrit, the hometown of the late dictator Saddam Hussein. The day before, the Sunni Muslim governor of the western province of Anbar survived a bomb attack on his convoy.

Since the country's sectarian war largely ended in 2008, Iraq's Sunni community has sought ways to join the political process and seize the benefits of the new era, accepting Iraq's Shiite Muslim religious majority as the country's most powerful force. The seating of the new national government in December, with key posts awarded to Sunnis, could prove a death knell for armed groups that had exploited a nine-month impasse after elections with a campaign of massive bombings and assassinations.

Attacks had dropped since November, but the violence beginning Monday again showed militant groups' ability to sow havoc.

In one of Wednesday's attacks, the bomber sped his car into the headquarters compound of the Facility Protections Services, a special force responsible for guarding public buildings and smaller state offices. The blast flattened the building in Diyala's capital, Baqubah.

"It seems that he was trying to destroy many buildings and to kill as many as he can, and he succeeded," said Gen. Hisham Tamimi, a local security commander.

One witness said the suicide bomber was driving an ambulance, which he crashed through the compound's gates and then exploded.

A spokeswoman for Diyala, Sameera Shibli, put the death toll at 14 and the number of wounded at 64. The head of the province's health department said only five people had died, while an additional 135 were wounded.

Diyala has a slight Sunni majority and a local council dominated by Sunni politicians — who, in addition to risking the wrath of Sunni militants, have complained of harassment by the Shiite national government.

Separately on Wednesday, the deputy chairman of the provincial council, Sadiq Jaffar, was wounded in a town near Baqubah when a suicide car bomb exploded near a tent where the Shiite politician was meeting pilgrims on their way south to the shrine city of Karbala. At least three people were killed and 26 wounded in the blast.

ned.parker@latimes.com

Special correspondent Faris Mehdawi in Baqubah contributed to this report.

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