The death toll could rise as some bodies are thought to be buried beneath the rubble, and some people have been reported missing after the explosion, Ayan said.
 
Salaheddin is one of the provinces in which the US and Iraqi forces launched Operation Phantom Phoenix, a major offensive against al-Qaeda fighters which began on January 8.

The attack came as Robert Gates, the US defense secretary, arrived in Iraq to discuss security in the country and to prepare talks on a pact that would define future relations between Washington and Baghdad.