Suicide bomber in government HQ in west Iraq kills 3

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - A female suicide bomber blew herself up Sunday in the governor’s compound of Iraq’s western Anbar province, killing three people and wounding 39, as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Baghdad, officials said.

A police source said the blast occurred in the reception area of the heavily fortified compound in Ramadi, 100 km (60 miles) west of the capital. A hospital source said the 39 wounded included 13 police officers.

The sprawling desert province was the heartland of a fierce Sunni Islamist insurgency after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and was in the grip of al Qaeda. Its main cities, Ramadi and Falluja, witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

But local Sunni tribal chiefs turned on al Qaeda in 2006 and 2007, helping U.S. forces bring relative peace to the region.

Sectarian tensions have flared since a national election in March, which has yet to result in a new government.

A Sunni-backed alliance won a slim victory in the vote but a union of the main Shi’ite-led factions is expected to take the lead in the tussle to form a coalition government.

Insurgent groups have tried to exploit the political vacuum since the election through violence.

Al Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate claimed responsibility for brazen suicide assaults on the Iraqi central bank and the Trade Bank of Iraq last month, and police in Anbar and elsewhere have come under constant attack.

Friday, gunmen with silenced weapons shot dead one of Anbar’s most senior Sunni clerics, Imam Abdul Aleem al-Saadi, after he answered a knock on his door.

Sunday’s bomb blast in the Anbar governorate office occurred as Biden visited U.S. troops in Baghdad for the 4th of July holiday and also planned to meet Iraqi leaders.

Reporting by Fadhel al-Badrani; writing by Michael Christie