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Suicide bomber kills 9 in Iraq

A suicide bomber mingled into a crowd of US-allied Sunni paramilitaries in Iraq yesterday and detonated his explosives belt, killing nine and wounding 30 others waiting in line for their salaries, Iraqi police said.

The bomber walked into the group of about 250 Awakening Council members outside the military headquarters in Jbala and blew himself up, said police spokesman Major Muthana Khalid.

The recent spate of attacks, which this week killed at least 53 people in Baghdad, will likely raise concerns about the readiness of Iraqi forces to take over security as the Obama administration prepares to remove all combat troops by the end of August next year.

The decision of tens of thousands of Sunni fighters to turn against the insurgency starting in 2006 has been key to reducing violence in Iraq but the so-called Awakening Councils are constantly being targeted by militants.

But the Iraqi government has been suspicious of the fighters, maintaining that some retain ties to the insurgency.

Salaries for the paramilitaries, which were once paid by the US military, have been delayed by the Iraqi government for two months and there have been concerns among the paramilitaries that the Shiite-led authorities could disband them.

At the Jbala headquarters, the Awakening fighters had asked the soldiers to allow them to wait inside the compound behind the blast walls, said Riad Hassan al-Janabi, one of the wounded.

But the guards would only let small groups inside to get their salaries, he said, leaving most unprotected outside.

"I couldn't see anything as dust covered the area. There were only voices of people around us and the smell of gunpowder," he said.

Al-Janabi, who sustained shrapnel wounds in his right arm, and the other wounded were treated at the hospital in the nearby town of Iskandariyah.

The police said the bomber's identity was not immediately known.


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