At Least 35 Die As Bombers Hit Wedding Convoy

By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 2, 2008

BAGHDAD, May 1 -- Two suicide bombers attacked a wedding convoy as it passed through a busy market area in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, killing at least 35 people and wounding at least 65, police said.

As police and rescue crews rushed to the site after the first explosion in the town of Balad Ruz, the second bomb was detonated, police said. They said one of the attackers was a woman.

The double bombing was the latest in a series of high-profile attacks in Diyala, a largely Sunni area. The attackers appear to be targeting members of the Awakening movement, mainly Sunnis who have joined with U.S. forces to fight the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Women are involved in an increasing number of the attacks. On Tuesday, a female suicide bomber struck in the village of Mukhisa, killing one person and wounding five, all members of the Awakening movement. On April 21, a female bomber blew herself up in the home of a group of Sunni Awakening members, killing three people.

Four days earlier, a suicide attacker wearing an explosives vest killed 55 people at a funeral for Awakening members in a Diyala village.

Among those wounded Thursday in Balad Ruz were the bride and groom, the Associated Press reported, citing a provincial official.

In central Baghdad on Thursday, a car bomb targeting a U.S. military convoy killed an American soldier, the military said. Three suspects were detained and tested positive for explosive compounds, it said.

In the Baghdad district of Sadr City, Iraqi security forces backed by U.S. troops, armor and air power continued to battle fighters tied to the Mahdi Army, the militia loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Police said two Mahdi Army hideouts were raided, leading to clashes in which seven militiamen were killed and 16 wounded. A bombing in the area killed an Iraqi patrolman, police said.

Also Thursday, a delegation of five Iraqi lawmakers traveled to Tehran to outline evidence that Iranian security forces were arming Shiite militias. Other lawmakers said the Iraqi government had evidence that fighters were using Iranian-made arms in Sadr City as well as in the southern cities of Diwaniyah and Basra. U.S. military officials have made similar assertions.

"They have crossed all boundaries and that's not acceptable," said Haider al-Ebadi, a Shiite legislator. "We don't want our relationship with Iran to deteriorate."

Iraq's Shiite-led government has close ties to Iran, whose government is overseen by Shiite clerics.

Ebadi said the lawmakers were also expected to meet with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader. He said the lawmakers would also press the Iranian government for help in lowering tensions in Sadr City.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Thursday released a letter addressed to Sadr City residents, promising to improve security and living situations in the impoverished Shiite area. Maliki also called on elders and clergymen to stop fighters from using houses, mosques and other sites as arms storehouses and civilians as human shields.

Elsewhere in Iraq, police said they clashed with gunmen in the city of Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad in Diyala province, resulting in the eight deaths and 21 injuries. Also in Diyala, a roadside bomb in Buhriz struck an Iraqi patrol, killing a soldier.

Special correspondents Zaid Sabah, Saad al-Izzi and Dalya Hassan contributed to this report.

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