FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - A suicide bomber blew himself up during a ceremony in a cultural center in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on Thursday, killing at least 11 people and wounding 18 others, police and government officials said.
The bomber attacked during a commemoration of Prophet Mohammad’s birthday, said Anbar province Deputy Governor Hikmet Khalaf, who was injured in the explosion.
“We were in the middle of a ceremony to celebrate the anniversary of Prophet Mohammad’s birthday when a male suicide bomber came to the door of the room and said ‘God is Greatest’ and blew himself up,” Khalaf told Reuters.
Police Lieutenant Ali al-Dulaimi, who works in the Anbar police media office, and an Interior Ministry source both put the toll from the blast at 11 people dead and 18 others wounded.
The sprawling desert province of Anbar was the heartland of a Sunni Islamist insurgency after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Its main cities, Ramadi and Falluja, witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the war.
Anbar Governor Qassim Mohammed, who is frequently targeted, said two other suicide bombers were at large.
“There were another two suicide bombers who tried to blow themselves up at the scene. Security forces opened fire and followed them. They know their faces and they will arrest them.”
While overall violence in Iraq has dropped from the height of sectarian warfare in 2006-7, bombings still occur daily and insurgents are still capable of carrying out lethal attacks almost eight years after the U.S.-led invasion.
Earlier this month, three bombs killed at least six people and wounded 12 more in Ramadi, while a suicide bomber in a car tried to blow up Anbar’s governor in January.
Ramadi is 100 km (60 miles) west of Baghdad.
Additional reporting by Suadad al-Salhy and Muhanad Mohammed in Baghdad; Writing by Serena Chaudhry