Middle East

Iraq bomb attack kills at least 32 at Hilla checkpoint

People push a damaged car at the scene of a suicide attack in the city of Hilla, 9 March Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The bombing set dozens of cars alight as they were waiting to be searched at the checkpoint

A suspected suicide bomber has killed at least 32 people at a security checkpoint in Iraq, authorities have said.

In the deadliest of a series of attacks on Sunday, the bomber drove a minibus packed with explosives at a checkpoint in the city of Hilla.

The explosion killed civilians, including women and children, and security personnel, officials say.

The violence comes before scheduled elections in the country next month.

The deadly blast struck the entrance of the Shia-dominated city, which is 60 miles (95km) south of Baghdad, during the morning rush hour.

The bombing set dozens of cars alight as they were waiting to be searched at the checkpoint, killing people inside their vehicles and wounding more than 150.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Officials believe al-Qaeda was behind the bombing
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hilla is a Shia-dominated city 60 miles (95km) south of Baghdad

Iraqi police say the minibus may have been packed with liquid fuel, possibly gasoline.

Deputy chairman of Hilla provincial council, Aqeel al-Rubaie, told the Reuters news agency he believed al-Qaeda was behind the bombing.

In other violence on Sunday:

  • A gun attack on a checkpoint North of Hilla leaves two policemen dead and four others wounded
  • In Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, gunmen shoot dead at least two soldiers and wound one at an army checkpoint.
  • Six attacks north of the capital kill three policemen and two soldiers and wound nearly 40

The attacks come amid a period of renewed violence in recent months, driven principally by widespread discontent among the country's Sunni minority and by the civil war in neighbouring Syria.

The death toll has climbed to its highest levels since the worst of Iraq's sectarian bloodletting in 2006-2008.

The UN said 8,868 people were killed in 2013, and more than 1,400 people were killed in January and February this year.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of seeking to destabilise his country by supporting insurgent groups and providing them with financial support.

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