Suicide bombers kill five as 12 die in Iraq unrest

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MOSUL: Three suicide bombers killed four police and a soldier in separate attacks in Iraq’s main northern city of Mosul on Thursday, as violence claimed a total of 12 lives nationwide, police said.

Most of the attacks came in Al-Qaeda strongholds as Iraqi and US commanders warned that a persistent political vacuum nearly four months after an inconclusive general election risked fanning a new upsurge in violence.

The policemen were killed when a bomber walked up to a checkpoint in the Shifa neighborhood in the overwhelmingly Sunni Arab area west of Mosul and blew himself up, also wounding four officers, police said.

Medics confirmed the casualty toll, adding that two of the wounded were in a critical condition.

In the ethnically mixed east of the city across the River Tigris, two suicide bombers wearing military uniforms killed one soldier and wounded five at an army base, commanders said.

At least one bomber managed to penetrate the base perimeter.

A commander said that the other blew himself up at the main gate, allowing his accomplice to get inside. Another commander said that both managed to get past the security cordon.

In another attack on a police checkpoint in west Mosul, gunmen killed three officers on Wednesday night, police said.

West of Mosul, in the town of Tal Afar, security forces thwarted an attempted suicide bombing on Thursday morning.

The would-be bomber tried to blow up his car in a livestock market in the town, which has a large Shia Turkmen community, police said.

But officers spotted him, and shot and killed him before he could detonate his payload.

Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, has remained a hotbed of insurgent activity even as levels of political violence have fallen off in much of the rest of the country.

Nineveh is split between Sunni Arab and Kurdish communities who are bitterly divided over the ambitions of Kurdish leaders to incorporate large parts of the province into their autonomous region in the north. It also has Assyrian, Shabak, Turkmen and Yazidi minorities.

Al-Qaeda has exploited the ethnic and confessional differences to make the province one its enduring strongholds in Iraq.

In Diyala province, another ethnically mixed jihadist stronghold farther south, insurgents killed two anti-Al-Qaeda militiamen, security officials said.

Four armed assailants stormed the home of the militiamen in the province, just north of Baghdad, in the early morning and seized the two brothers aged 20 and 22, operations command in the provincial capital Baquba said.

The two men’s bodies were found a few hours later dumped by the roadside in the desert Udhaim area in the west of the province, riddled with bullets, blindfold and with their arms bound.

There has been a spate attacks in Diyala against members of the Sahwa (Awakening) militia, an anti-Qaeda force formed under US military sponsorship from 2006 from Sunni Arab tribes and insurgent groups opposed to the jihadists.

The province is an ethnic mosaic of Shia and Sunni Arabs, and Shia Kurds and Turkmen, and Al-Qaeda has profited from communal animosities to establish a major base for its operations.

Meanwhile in the capital Baghdad, two roadside bombs targeting a police patrol in the Palestine Street area killed two police and wounded eight people, four of them police, the interior ministry said.

US and Iraqi officials had warned of the dangers of an upsurge of violence if negotiations on forming a new governing coalition after the March 7 election dragged on for too long, giving insurgents a chance to further destabilize the country.

Government figures showed that 337 people were killed as a result of violence in May, the fourth time this year that the overall death toll has been higher than in the corresponding month of 2009.

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