Bombers kill 4 at government centre in Iraq's Anbar

FALLUJA, Iraq Tue Sep 20, 2011 11:15am EDT

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FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Suicide bombers hit a government complex in the capital of Iraq's mainly Sunni Muslim Anbar province on Tuesday, killing four people and wounding at least 15 others, officials said.

Two suicide bombers wearing explosive vests and a third driving a car blew themselves up at the provincial government buildings in central Ramadi, officials said.

Anbar, the vast desert province to the west of Baghdad that saw some of the fiercest fighting of the war, has been the scene of sectarian tensions in recent days after the killing of 22 mainly Shi'ite pilgrims.

Government buildings and security forces have been frequent targets of a still lethal Sunni insurgency trying to destabilize Iraq's nascent democracy.

"Two suicide bombers wearing vests blew themselves up at the government building. The other one was a car bomb on the other side of the complex," said Mohammed Fathi, spokesman for Anbar's governor.

The complex, which houses the provincial council offices and police headquarters, has been a frequent target, including two attacks last December that killed two dozen people.

Tuesday's explosions killed four and wounded at least 18, an interior ministry source said. A health official put the toll at four dead and 15 wounded.

Anbar Governor Qassim Mohammed said security forces "shot at one of them. He tried to escape and they shot him again, the second one moved forward, they shot at him and blew him up and the third blew himself up."

Violence has dropped sharply in Iraq since the peak of sectarian fighting in 2006-07 but bombings and other attacks still occur daily as the army and police battle Sunni insurgents and Shi'ite Muslim militias.

Hundreds of people took to the streets in cities and towns across Anbar last Friday to protest the arrest of eight local men suspected in the Shi'ite pilgrim killings.

Gunmen attacked two buses carrying pilgrims from the Iraqi city of Kerbala to Syria on September 12, killing 22 men while sparing 15 women, 12 children and two elderly men.

The killings and the arrests sparked angry exchanges between Anbar and neighbouring Kerbala province and prompted Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other officials to try to defuse tensions by meeting tribal leaders.

Sectarian tensions still simmer in Iraq more than eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein as Iraq's government tries to decide whether to ask U.S. troops to stay past a year-end deadline for their departure.

(Additional reporting by Waleed Ibrahim and Aseel Kami; Writing by Jim Loney)

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