Bombers leave 33 dead in Iraq days before national poll

Suicide bombers struck in Iraq yesterday just days before a national election, killing 33 people and wounding 55 as the war-scarred nation seeks to cement its frail democracy before a US troop pullout.

The parliamentary poll on Sunday is viewed as pivotal for Iraq as US forces prepare to end combat operations in August ahead of a full withdrawal by end-2011, and Iraq starts to lure foreign investors in an effort to rebuild.

The bombings could damage the campaign of Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, who has partly based his hopes of re-election on improved security throughout Iraq.

US and Iraqi officials said attacks by suspected insurgents are aimed at undermining his government. Sporadic political violence and assassinations have marred the immediate run-up to the election, especially in Baghdad and the western province of Anbar.

But until yesterday the campaign had not seen major assaults by suicide bombers like those that devastated public buildings and hotels in Baghdad in January, December, October and August.

Police said the first two attackers drove explosives-packed cars at police stations in the centre and west of the city of Baquba, 65km northeast of Baghdad.

The third assailant rode in an ambulance from one of the first blast sites to the city's main hospital, where he detonated his bomb as casualties from the earlier explosions were ferried there. Baquba is a mixed Shia and Sunni city and capital of Diyala province.

Both the city and the province were flashpoints of the insurgency, although they have recently quietened down.

 

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