UPDATE 2-Suicide bomber kills senior Iraqi army officer

Reuters Middle East

* Attack latest in wave of suicide bombings since January

* Blast near volatile city of Mosul, close to Syrian border

* Insurgents often target Shi'ites, security forces

(Adds more details throughout on attack)

MOSUL, Iraq, Feb 16 (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed a

senior Iraqi army intelligence officer and two bodyguards in a

northern town on Saturday after storming his well-guarded home.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack. But suicide

bombings are the hallmark of al Qaeda's local wing, Islamic

State of Iraq, which aims to take back ground lost in its long

battle with U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Sunni Islamist insurgents tied to al Qaeda have stepped up

bombings on Iraqi Shi'ite targets and security forces in a

campaign of sectarian violence a year after the last U.S. troops

left the OPEC country.

One bomber was shot outside the home of Brigadier-General

Awni Ali, the director of the Defence Ministry's intelligence

school, in the northern town of Tal Afar. But a second attacker

managed to detonate his explosives.

"Guards killed one suicide bomber, but when the brigadier

general and his bodyguards went out another bomber ran among

them and blew himself up," a local official said.

Tal Afar is near the Syrian border, about 420 km (260 miles)

north of Baghdad and just west of the volatile northern city of

Mosul. The town has a large Shi'ite Muslim population in a

volatile province that is home to many Sunni Arabs as well as

Christians, ethnic Kurds and Turkmen.

Increasing sectarian violence has accompanied growing

political unrest in Iraq as thousands of Sunni Muslims in

western provinces rally against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri

al-Maliki, accusing him of marginalising their minority sect.

More than 10 suicide attackers have struck security forces,

Shi'ite targets and a lawmaker since January.

Violence is far from the sectarian bloodletting that killed

tens of thousands in 2006-2007. But after the last U.S. troops

left in December 2011, insurgents have carried out at least one

big attack a month.

Last year, more than 4,400 people were killed, the first

annual climb in Iraq's death toll in three years.

Sunni unrest and renewed violence are worsening fears the

war in neighbouring Syria - where Sunni rebels are battling

President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Shi'ite Iran - could

undermine Iraq's delicate sectarian and ethnic balance.

Islamic State of Iraq, though weakened after years of war

with U.S. troops, has benefited from the inflow of Sunni

Islamists and arms into Syria. Security officials say insurgents

want to regroup in Iraq's western desert near the Syrian border.

(Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

View Comments (0)