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September 20, 2017

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Suicide bomber kills 34 at checkpoint in Iraq

HILLA, Iraq--A suicide bomber killed 34 people, including two state television employees, at a checkpoint near Baghdad Sunday, after Iraq's premier accused Riyadh and Doha of fuelling bloodshed in the country.

Iraq has been hit by a year-long surge in violence that has reached levels not seen since 2008, driven principally by widespread discontent among its Sunni Arab minority and by the civil war in neighboring Syria.

Analysts and diplomats have urged Iraq's Shiite-led authorities to reach out to disaffected Sunnis but with elections due next month, political leaders have not wanted to be seen to compromise and have instead pursued a hard line against militants.

The suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged minibus during morning rush hour at a checkpoint at the northern entrance to Hilla, the confessionally mixed but mostly Shiite capital of Babil province south of Baghdad.

The attack killed 34 people and left 167 others wounded, a police captain and medical sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Among the fatalities were five policemen, two women and five children, according to the sources.

"I saw a huge fire that covered the entire checkpoint and many cars nearby," Salam Ali, who suffered wounds to his chest and one of his hands, said from his bed in Hilla hospital.

"Many victims could not get out of their cars because the pressure of the explosion fused the doors shut."

Another witness, 18-year-old Kadhim Abdulhussein said he saw pieces of metal from the checkpoint scattered dozens of meters from the scene of the attack.

Iraqiya state television said two of its employees, Muthanna Abdulhussein and Khaled Abed Thamer, were among the dead.

Militants carry out frequent attacks on security forces, and also target areas where crowds of people gather. The checkpoint combined the two.

In Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, gunmen shot dead at least two soldiers and wounded one at an army checkpoint, while five attacks north of Baghdad killed a police colonel and two policemen and left nearly 40 other people wounded.

PM Blames Saudi Arabia, Qatar

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