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A woman wearing a suicide vest blew herself up near a popular market and a Shiite mosque in restive Diyala province north of the capital on Wednesday, killing eight civilians and wounding seven others, police said.
The attack took place in Khan Bani Saad, a town nine miles south of Baqouba, Diyala's provincial capital. Police spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information to the media.
The province has defied the trend toward lower violence over the past six months in Baghdad and much of central Iraq. Insurgents who were pushed out of the western province of Anbar and out of Baghdad have shifted their operations into the farming region of palm and citrus groves, where Shiite and Sunni communities press up next to each other as if on a checkerboard.
Diyala has been a major focus of a nationwide campaign the US military launched last week against al-Qaida in Iraq and other extremists. Six US soldiers were killed and four were wounded as they searched a booby-trapped house in Diyala just days into the military operation.
At least 273 civilians were slain in Diyala last month, compared to at least 213 in June, according to an Associated Press count. Over the same span, monthly civilian deaths in Baghdad dropped from at least 838 to at least 182.
But after several months of relative quiet in Baghdad, fighters believed allied with Iran have resumed mortar and rocket attacks, with several big blasts heard shortly after dawn on Wednesday as well as a few more later in the morning.
On Tuesday, at least five mortars crashed into the fortified Green Zone, site of the American Embassy and Iraqi government on Tuesday night, not long after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a news conference after making an unannounced visit.
On Tuesday night, at least five mortars crashed into the fortified Green Zone, site of the American Embassy and Iraqi government, not long after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a news conference after making an unannounced visit.
Mortar and rocket attacks on the Green Zone, which had been a daily event, virtually stopped about mid-October. The quiet followed a six-month cease-fire announced by radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia in August, though some breakaway factions of al-Sadr's group continued to launch attacks.
The resumption of the attacks coincided with a sharp rise in US rhetoric against Iran by President Bush during his tour of the Middle East.
Two Mahdi Army commanders have told The Associated Press the uptick in mortar and rocket attacks is not the work of their organization, which continues its cease-fire.
Instead, the attacks are believed to be the work of a new organization with ties to Iran. (AP)
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