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Iraq suicide blast kills 21 north of Baghdad

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[February 04, 2013]  BAGHDAD (AP) -- A suicide bomber struck a group of anti-al-Qaida fighters north of Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 21 people and wounding 44 in an attempt to destabilize the government and shake confidence in Iraqi security forces, officials said.

The bomber had mingled among the men gathering to collect their salaries outside one of the militia's headquarters in the town of Taji, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) north of the Iraqi capital.

Three Iraqi soldiers and 18 members of the Sunni militia known as Sahwa, or Awakening Councils, were among the dead, police officials said. Three medical officials confirmed the casualties; all officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to release information to the media.

The Sahwa was formed from Sunni fighters who switched sides and joined U.S. and Iraqi government forces to fight al-Qaida at the height of the insurgency. Since then, they have been among the favorite targets for insurgents who see them as traitors.

Violence has ebbed across Iraq since the peak of the fighting, but deadly bombings and shootings still occur almost daily nationwide.

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The blast comes a day after several suicide attackers on foot and in two explosives-laden cars hit a provincial police headquarters in Kirkuk, also north of Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding 90.

No group has claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, but suicide bombings are a hallmark of al-Qaida in Iraq.

[Associated Press; By SINAN SALAHEDDIN]

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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