BAQUBA, IRAQ (BNO NEWS) — At least twenty-one people were killed on late Monday when a suspected al-Qaeda suicide bomber attacked a funeral ceremony for a Shi’ite tribal leader in eastern Iraq, police and medical officials said on Tuesday. More than 50 others were injured.
The attack happened just after 6 p.m. local time on Monday when a suicide bomber blew up his explosive vest during a funeral ceremony in the Shefta neighborhood of downtown Baquba, the capital of Diyala Governorate and about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of the capital Baghdad.
Witnesses said the suicide bomber blew himself up in a tent where mourners were paying respects to the family of a Shi’ite tribal leader. It happened on the third and last day of the funeral, which was attended by senior military leaders and politicians close to senior government officials.
“The bomber walked into the tent through a side entrance and blew himself up between mourners. There were officers there who tried to stop the bomber but it was too late. There were bodies everywhere,” one witness said on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if the bombing targeted any of the military officials or politicians who were present at the ceremony.
The Diyala Health Department confirmed at least 21 people were killed in the blast, including several bodyguards of Lt. Gen. Ali Ghaidan, the commander of the Iraqi army’s ground forces. None of the military officials or politicians were killed, and none of them were believed to be injured.
Police said they suspect al-Qaeda was behind the deadly attack, which also wounded more than 50 people.
June has been a deadly month in Iraq, which continues to experience political turmoil and sectarian violence although it has declined dramatically since its peak in 2006 and 2007. At least 93 people were killed and more than 300 others were wounded in a wave of bomb and shooting attacks which targeted Shi’ite Muslims across Iraq on Wednesday.
The violence followed a deadly attack days earlier when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-laden car outside the Shi’ite Endowment Department in the Bab al-Mu’dham District of central Baghdad, killing at least 25 people and injuring more than 150 others. The religious affairs office is in charge of operating Shi’ite mosques and religious properties in the country.