DIWANIYAH, Iraq (AFP) – Two suicide car bombs ripped through a guard post killing 26 people outside the provincial governor’s home in Diwaniyah city on Tuesday, officials said, as violence surged across Iraq.
Most of the dead were policemen, a medic said, while a defence ministry official said 29 people were wounded in the powerful twin blasts.
A police colonel said Diwaniyah provincial governor Salam Hussein Alwan was the target of the attack but was late in leaving home and thus escaped unharmed, as did his family.
“The plan was for the bombs to explode as the governor left for work in his convoy of vehicles,” he said.
The colonel, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the bombs exploded at 7:45 am (0445 GMT) at a police barrier about 30 metres (100 feet) from the governor’s home, seriously damaging blast walls protecting the compound.
Defence ministry spokesman Mohammad al-Askari said “26 people were killed and 29 were wounded.”
“Two suicide bombers exploded their car bombs targeting the governor’s home,” he told AFP. “The first bomber detonated the bomb at the entrance of the compound, and three minutes later the second bomber did the same at the same spot,” he added.
Earlier, a medic at the main hospital in Diwaniyah, 160 kilometres (100 miles) south of Baghdad, said 21 dead bodies had been received, all of them policemen, and many of them burnt. Thirty-five wounded people had been brought to the hospital.
“All of the dead are policemen,” the medic told AFP. “Among the wounded are 30 policemen and five civilians — two children, two men and a woman — people whose homes were nearby,” he added.
Casualty figures often differ in the immediate aftermath of an attack in Iraq, due to the ensuing chaos and confusion.
Abdullah Abdul Hussein, a 45-year-old labourer said he was also on his way to work when the explosions occurred.
“First one car exploded, and then another. There were bodies everywhere, and cars burning,” he told AFP.
“One car was thrown by the force of the blast, and I saw many bodies, some of them so burnt that you could not tell if it was a man or woman,” he added.
Charred and mangled heaps of metal were all that remained of the cars used in the blasts. The fortified entrance to the governor’s compound was a mess of sandbags and bricks, with walls spotted with soot.
Alwan is a member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law alliance.
Attacks against government officials and facilities have shot up in recent months, as Iraqi leaders bicker over key security posts left vacant since a March 2010 general election.
“Al-Qaeda’s hand is behind the attack,” said Intesar al-Musawi, a member of the provincial council. “They want to kill the governor.”
The car bombs were part of a string of blasts on Tuesday in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq that killed at least another four people and wounded 16, including two policemen and three soldiers, interior and defence ministry officials said.
Tuesday’s violence followed a spate of gun and bomb attacks on Monday, including a blast next to a French embassy car that wounded seven Iraqis. Four French security personnel inside the armoured vehicle escaped unhurt.
Violence is down in Iraq since its peak in 2006 and 2007, when tens of thousands of people were killed in clashes between Sunni and Shiite Arabs and in insurgent attacks, but attacks have risen since the beginning of this year.
The new surge in violence comes with only months to go before US troops, in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, are due to complete a pullout under the terms of a bilateral security pact.
Eight US soldiers have been killed on duty this month.
An Al-Qaeda-style raid by gunmen against government offices in the central city of Baquba on June 14 killed seven people. A March 29 attack, claimed by Al-Qaeda, on Salaheddin governorate offices in Tikrit left 58 people dead.
Private security firm AKE Group said this month that attacks have been on the rise since the start of the year, with violent incidents averaging more than 10 a day in May, up from four to five a day in January.