Middle East

Iraq violence: Suicide bomber attacks funeral

Map of Iraq

A suicide bomber has detonated explosives at a funeral in northern Iraq, killing more than 20 people and wounding scores, officials said.

The attack took place on Saturday near Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province.

It is no yet clear who was behind the bombing. Sectarian violence has surged across the country in recent months, reaching its highest level since 2008.

Observers say Nineveh has become a rallying point for insurgents from the Sunni community.

More than 5,000 people have been killed so far this year in Iraq, 800 of them in August alone, according to the United Nations.

Sunni anger

Police said the latest attack targeted the funeral of a member of the Shabak people.

The Shabak, who number about 50,000 and live between the Mosul plain and Baashiqa, have their own distinct language and belief system.

They largely follow a faith considered an offshoot of Shia Islam, and are frequently targeted in attacks by Sunni militants.

The assault comes a day after at least 30 people died in a bomb attack on a Sunni mosque in the central city of Baquba.

The spike in deadly violence in recent months comes amid rising sectarian and ethnic tensions, triggered in April by an army raid on a Sunni Arab anti-government protest camp near Hawija.

In recent weeks, Iraqi security forces have reportedly arrested hundreds of alleged al-Qaeda members in and around Baghdad as part of a campaign the Shia-led government is calling "Revenge for the martyrs".

But the operations, which have taken place mostly in Sunni districts, have angered the Sunni community and failed to halt the violence.

The country has also seen a spillover of violence from the conflict in Syria, which has taken on increasingly sectarian overtones.