Violence escalates as Iraq elections approach

As provincial elections scheduled for April 20 draw closer violence continues in Iraq, including a savage attack on a political rally for a Sunni candidate in Baquba
The suicide bomber attack on the rally for Muthana al-Jourani was launched during a luncheon with hundreds of supporters in attendance. At least 22 people were killed and over fifty wounded. Among the wounded were al-Jourani himself and three other candidates. A New York Times report puts the death toll at 20 with about 55 wounded and claims that there were two explosions one from the bomber and another from a home-made bomb. The BBC reports that a grenade was thrown into the tent where the supporters were assembled for lunch and just seconds later a suicide bomber inside the tent blew himself up.
In the last few weeks more than 11 candidates in the elections have been killed. In two provinces polls have been postponed because of the security situation. Some of the opposition claim that the al-Maliki government is trying to use the violence as a reason to postpone elections because they fear they may lose.
Baquba, north of the capital Baghdad, is the capital of Diyala Province whose population is a mix of Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Al Qaeda has been active of late in Iraq and is attempting to ignite sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni groups. The rally was in a poor section of the city.
Violent attacks took place in several other places in Iraq. In Samarra a bomb killed three police and also wounded three civilians. In Shirgat a policeman and his brother were hurt when two bombs exploded. A gunman was also killed in Shirgat when a bomb the gunman was planting exploded. In Mosul in the north two soldiers were wounded when there was a clash at their checkpoint and a civilian was killed. In two other incidents in different places two policemen were wounded.


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