Page last updated at 22:48 GMT, Friday, 2 January 2009

Suicide bomb kills many in Iraq


At least 23 people have been killed in a suicide bombing in a town south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, police say.

About 110 people were also injured in the attack at a gathering of Sunni Muslim tribal leaders in Yusufiya, 20km (12 miles) from Baghdad.

Police said the bomber had entered the home of a sheikh as a Sunni council meeting was being held.

The area was once an al-Qaeda stronghold but local Sunnis turned against the group from 2007.

A number of the tribal leaders, or sheikhs, are reported to be among the casualties.

'Huge explosion'

A witness said the gathering was being held in a marquee in the grounds of the home of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Salih.

"There was a huge explosion then the tent was engulfed in flames," said a witness, Falah Abdul-Hadi.

"People were running away and some were bleeding," he told Reuters news agency.

A security official said the bomber was a relative of the host.

The sheikh was holding the meeting under an initiative by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shia, to reach out to Sunnis to aid national reconciliation.

The interior ministry said 30 people had been killed, while Iraqi police put the number of dead at 23.

Conflicting reports on the number of casualties are common in Iraqi after attacks involving large numbers of deaths.

It is the first suicide attack in Iraq this year - although some fear that the run-up to provincial elections later this month could see more settling of scores and attempts to destabilise Iraq, BBC correspondent Caroline Wyatt in Baghdad says.

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