A double bombing targeting Iraq’s Kurdish minority has killed at least 18 people in the country’s north east, as clashes continued for a second day.
A suicide attack, followed by a car bombing, struck the offices of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party in the town of Jalawla, in the ethnically mixed Diyala province on Sunday.
Police officials said the first attack took place in the morning when a suicide bomber set off his explosive vest at the gate of the PUK office.
Minutes later, a car bomb exploded near the building as security forces arrived to inspect the scene of the first blast.
The chairman of Jalawla city council, Khorsheed Ahmed, told the Reuters news agency that “a suicide bomber parked a car packed with explosives near the PUK headquarters and when it went off, he managed to sneak into the building and detonated his vest.”
A senior police officer and four of his bodyguards were among the dead. A further 50 people were wounded.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant said it carried out the attack, saying the attack had been carried out by two suicide bombers as revenge for the arrest of Muslim women in Iraq’s Kurdish region.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said public statements by ISIL suggested they wanted to drag the Kurds into this conflict.
“A lot of people in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region say Peshmerga forces need to be sent to protect assets that they have down there”, Khan said.
Meanwhile, an armed attack by ISIL on a police patrol in old marked area in central Iraqi city of Ramadi left at least four policemen killed on Sunday, a police source told Al Jazeera.
In a separate incident in Ramadi, an explosion killed seven soldiers and wounded 12 on Sunday, Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan reported.
“Ramadi has been under a lot of pressure. There has been Iraqi army operation mounted there since January. A number of attacks there in the last 48 hours suggest that ISIL, who – the government say – are responsible for most of the attacks, are resurgent,” Khan said.
Surge in violence
Sunday’s blasts came a day after a series of deadly bombings and clashes left at least 73 people dead.
More than 900 people were killed last month, according to figures separately compiled by the United Nations and the Iraqi government.
More than 4,500 people have been killed in 2014, according to the AFP news agency.
Iraq is grappling with its worst surge in violence since 2006 and 2007, when the country was pushed to the brink of civil war in sectarian conflict between the Shia majority and Sunni Arab minority.
Officials blame external factors for the rising bloodshed, particularly the civil war in neighbouring Syria, but analysts say widespread Sunni anger with the Shia-led government has also been a major factor.