A suicide bomber struck the funeral of two anti-Al Qaida Sunni tribesmen in a town north of Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 45 people, police said.
The blast was the latest this week to break a period of relative calm in Sunni areas, raising concerns that Sunni insurgents are reorganising.
Over the past months, violence has dropped with the increase in US troops and the growth of so-called Awakening Councils, groups of Sunni tribesmen who have joined American forces in fighting Al Qaida-linked militants.
The suicide bomber detonated his explosives in the town of Albu Mohammed, about 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of Baghdad, during the funeral of two brothers who belonged to the local Awakening Council who were slain a day earlier, police in the nearby city of Kirkuk said.
At least 45 people were killed in the blast, the police officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to talk to the media. The blast was the deadliest attack since March 6, when a bombing in central Baghdad killed 68.
Thursday’s attack came on the heels of a string of suicide attacks on Tuesday that killed 60 people in four major cities in central and northern Iraq.
The US military has touted the relative calm in Sunni areas as a major success of the troop surge and the strategy of encouraging Awakening Councils and other Sunnis ) some former insurgents - to turn against Al Qaida.
US military spokesman Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner said Wednesday that despite this week’s stepped-up violence, the overall situation in Iraq has markedly improved over the past year.
“We have said all along that there will be variants in which we will see Al Qaida and other groups seek to reassert themselves,” Bergner said.
But the new Sunni violence comes as fighting has increased between US-Iraqi forces and Shiite militiamen, particularly members of anti-US cleric Muqtada Al Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
On Wednesday, fresh clashes broke out in the Baghdad Mahdi Army stronghold of Sadr City between US-backed Iraqi troops and Shiite militiamen, leaving two men dead and 18 people wounded, police said.
In the southern city of Basra, a US drone killed four militants when it fired rockets at militiamen who attacked an Iraqi army patrol.
An offensive launched on March 25 by Iraqi forces against Shiite militants in Basra touched off an uprising by Shiite militias across southern Iraq and in Sadr City. (AP)
Suicide bomber kills 45 mourners in Baghdad