Iraq bombs kill 21 in Saddam home town Tikrit

  • World
  • Saturday, 04 Jun 2011

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - At least 21 people were killed and more than 70 injured on Friday in two apparently coordinated attacks in Tikrit, home town of former dictator Saddam Hussein, officials said.

The first explosion, a roadside bomb, targeted worshippers at a mosque, killing 15 and wounding 61, Raed Ibrahim, head of the health department in Salahuddin province, told Reuters.

Hours later, when the injured were being treated in Tikrit hospital, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest there, killing six people and injuring 10, police said.

The dead from the first blast, which happened as worshippers were leaving Friday prayers in the Sunni-dominated city 150 km (95 miles) north of Baghdad, included a senior provincial judge, and many local officials were among the injured.

Tikrit, a former al Qaeda stronghold, is dominated by Sunni Muslims, a minority in Iraq who were favoured under Saddam. Suspected Sunni Islamists carry out frequent attacks in the town and surrounding Salahuddin province, trying to destabilise the Baghdad government and stir up sectarian tension.

Friday's attack, inside a palace complex which belonged to Saddam, followed four bombs on Thursday in Ramadi in western Iraq which killed at least six people and injured 17.

Although overall violence in Iraq has fallen sharply since the peak of sectarian slaughter in 2006-2007, insurgents are still able to carry out lethal attacks eight years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam.

Several attacks in Tikrit this year have caused a large number of deaths. In March, at least 53 people were killed when gunmen took hostages at the provincial council headquarters and fought security forces.

In January, a suicide bombing in Tikrit killed up to 60 police recruits.

Around 47,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq are due to leave by the end of 2011 under a bilateral security pact, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led coalition government must decide in the coming weeks whether to ask Washington to keep some of them in place.

U.S. officials and senior Iraqi military commanders have said they believe some kind of continuing U.S. military presence is necessary to ensure Iraq's security and defence needs, especially in an advisory and training role.

(Additional reporting by Khalid al-Ansary and Wathiq Ibrahim ; Writing by Pascal Fletcher; editing by Tim Pearce)

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