As the US ends combat operations in Iraq, violence remains a concern.
|Bombings have continued to occur across Iraq despite security pledges by the Iraqi government [GALLO/GETTY]|
At least 26 people have been killed and 72 others injured in a suicide bombing in the Iraqi town of Balad Ruz in Diyala province.
Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from the capital, Baghdad, said Balad Ruz remained under tight security control on Saturday but that the curfew imposed after the attack had been lifted.
She said five people had been arrested after the explosion which occurred at a cafe popular with Shia Muslim Kurds on Friday.
“The suicide bomber blew himself up inside the cafe. Most of the victims are civilians, 95 per cent are civilians,” Muthana al-Timimi, the head of the security committee of the Diyala provincial council, said.
Sadeq Abbas, a Kurdish resident from Balad Ruz, told the Reuters news agency: “I was near the cafe and suddenly a big explosion happened inside and there was chaos in the area.
“Security forces started shooting in the air to disperse the crowd and prevent people from going near the cafe.”
Colonel Kadhim Bashir Saleh, a spokesman for Iraq’s civil defence force, said the cafe, a popular venue for playing dominoes and drinking tea, was destroyed.
The blast was the first major suicide bomb attack to occur in Iraq for several weeks, as political factions continue to tussle over positions and power almost eight months after an inconclusive election.
Kurds, who have played a kingmaker role in Iraqi politics since the US-led invasion in 2003 ousted Saddam Hussein, are being courted by both coalitions but appear more likely to side with Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, and his Shia-led alliance.
Kurds have also been frequently targeted by groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq, seeking to foment ethnic and sectarian violence.
The last major attack by suicide bombers in Iraq took place last month when fighters swarmed an army base in Baghdad, battling Iraqi and US forces for at least an hour.
At least 12 people died in the assault on a heavily guarded military headquarters.