Suicide bomber kills 45 at Iraqi checkpoint
A SUICIDE bomber driving a minibus packed with explosives killed at least 45 people and wounded 157 yesterday in the southern Iraqi city of Hilla, police and medical sources said.
The attacker approached a main checkpoint at a northern entrance to the largely Shi'ite Muslim city and detonated the minibus, a police officer said on condition of anonymity.
At least 50 cars were set ablaze with passengers trapped inside and part of the checkpoint complex was destroyed, the officer said.
Sunni Islamist insurgents linked to al Qa'ida have been regaining ground in Iraq over the past year, particularly in the western province of Anbar bordering Syria.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but the deputy chairman of Hilla provincial council, Aqeel al-Rubaie, accused al Qa'ida of being behind the bombing.
Rubaie said the local government had received tips that al Qa'ida-affiliates hiding north of Hilla were plotting a strike.
He said the violence was a spillover from fighting in neighbouring Anbar, where the Shi'ite-led government has been battling al Qa'ida faction the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant around the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. "We have evidence that al Qa'ida terrorists are standing behind the suicide attack today and since the breakout of fighting in Anbar, al Qa'ida has stepped up attacks in Hilla," Rubaie said.
"We can't separate today's attack from Anbar's fight."
The scene of the attack was strewn with debris from the checkpoint, and the shells of burnt-out cars littered the road.