Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Deadly double blast hits street in Iraq city of Ramadi


The scene of the explosions in Ramadi

Twenty-four people, mostly police, have died in twin suicide blasts on the same street in a high-security zone of the Anbar province capital, Ramadi.

Anbar Governor Qassim Mohammed was among 60 people wounded - his condition was described as very serious.

The first bomber was in a car while the second was on foot and wearing army uniform, police said.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says violence has been rising as Iraq prepares for a March general election.

In a separate attack, a roadside bomb killed six Iraqi Shia Muslim pilgrims in Khalis, 80km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Inside job?

In Ramadi, at least 13 of those killed in Wednesday's twin bombing were police officers.

BBC's Jim Muir
Jim Muir, BBC News, Baghdad

The attacks were aimed at provincial government buildings, and many of the casualties were police or officials.

Eighteen policemen, including some senior officers, were reported to be among those who died.

Ramadi was once a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency until tribes turned against al-Qaeda and sided with the Americans and Baghdad government.

That brought a period of quiet to the province, but there has been a mounting number of attacks in recent months, possibly linked to the approach of March's elections.

A suicide bomber in a car triggered the first blast at a checkpoint on the main road near the provincial administration buildings, say police.

The governor was injured in the follow-up blast, about a half hour later, when he emerged from his office to inspect damage from the initial bomb.

The second attacker, wearing a suicide vest under what appeared to be an Iraqi army uniform, blew himself up as he ran into the crowd around the governor, said police.

Al-Iraqiya state TV said one of the bombers had been working as a bodyguard for Governor Mohammed, who was initially reported to have been killed in the blast.

He suffered burns to his face and injuries to his abdomen, a doctor told the Associated Press news agency.

"I flew through the air and I woke up in the hospital," Ramadi resident Ahmed Mahmoud, who was walking to the shops when one of the bombs went off, told Reuters news agency.

The attacks echoed a co-ordinated triple bombing in Ramadi on 11 October, which caused a similar number of casualties.

Al-Qaeda are trying to create general anarchy towards the election to show how the weak the government is
Dr Mowaffak Rubaie
Iraqi MP

Anbar was the heart of Iraq's Sunni Islamist insurgency following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but became relatively secure after tribal leaders turned against al-Qaeda in 2006.

Our correspondent says while Anbar has been generally quiet, the number of attacks has been rising in recent months, a worrying development in advance of March's general elections.

Despite this, he says general levels of violence in Iraq have fallen a long way.

In November, the number of civilians killed was just 88, compared with more than 3,000 Iraqis who died in the same month three years ago.

Iraqi MP Dr Mowaffak Rubaie told BBC's World Update programme the attacks were al-Qaeda's strategy to sow chaos, after failing to ignite a sectarian war.

He said: "Now they are trying to create general anarchy all over the country… towards the general election. This is to show how weak the government is."

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