Suicide bombers kill at least 16 soldiers at Iraqi base

BAGHDAD Thu Nov 7, 2013 4:53pm EST

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Two suicide bombers blew themselves up minutes apart at an Iraqi army base late on Thursday, killing at least 16 soldiers, police and medics said.

Security forces are a prime target for Sunni Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda who have been regaining momentum in an insurgency against Iraq's Shi'ite-led government this year.

The first suicide bomber detonated his charge at the main gate of the military base in Tarmiya, north of Baghdad, and the second struck a group of soldiers who had gathered to evacuate the wounded.

Violence in Iraq, which had eased since a peak in 2006-07, is rising again, with more than 7,000 civilians killed this year, according to monitoring group Iraq Body Count.

Two other soldiers were killed in a separate suicide car bombing on a checkpoint in the city of Ramadi in Iraq's western province of Anbar, which shares a border with Syria and is a stronghold of al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate.

Al Qaeda's Iraqi wing was forced underground in 2006-07, but has now regrouped and earlier this year joined forces with its Syrian counterpart to form the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on both sides of the border.

A further eight people were killed in car and roadside bombings across Iraq on Thursday. One attack targeted a district of Baghdad inhabited mainly by Shi'ite Muslims, who are viewed as apostates by hardline Sunni Islamists such as al Qaeda.

Iraqi officials blame al Qaeda's resurgence on the civil war in neighboring Syria, which has drawn hardline Sunni Islamists from across the region and beyond into battle against President Bashar al-Assad, who is an ally of Shi'ite Iran.

Critics of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki say his Shi'ite-led government's treatment of minority Sunnis has fuelled the Sunni resentment that al Qaeda is now exploiting.

(Reporting by Kareem Raheem and Raheem Salman in Baghdad and Kamal Naama in Ramadi; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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