Six Police among 10 Killed in Iraq Suicide Attacks

Suicide attacks targeting a police checkpoint and a Shiite Muslim procession in western and central Iraq on Sunday killed 10 people, including six policemen, police and a doctor said.

The violence comes two weeks ahead of a deadline for Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki to form a cabinet in a bid to end months of government impasse, and days before the climax of the Shiite commemoration ceremony of Ashura on Friday.

In the western city of Ramadi, a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives near Anbar provincial government offices, killing eight people, including six policemen, officials said.

The blast occurred at around 10:00 am (0700 GMT) at a police checkpoint in the centre of the city, 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Baghdad, and left 35 people wounded, according to police Major Rahim Zabin and a doctor at Ramadi hospital.

"A suicide car bomb targeted a police checkpoint in the centre of the city, about 200 meters (yards) from the Anbar government offices," Zabin said.

"He killed eight people, including six policemen and one woman."

A doctor at Ramadi hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the death toll, and said medics had so far treated 35 people for injuries, including women and children.

Ramadi is the capital of predominantly Sunni Arab Anbar province, Iraq's biggest by area.

Both the city and the province were a key Sunni insurgent base in the years after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, but since 2006 local tribes have sided with the U.S. military and day-to-day violence has dropped dramatically.

Major attacks do still take place, however.

On February 18, a suicide bomber killed 10 people, including four policemen and a young girl, and wounded 15 in an attack on a checkpoint near the city's provincial government offices.

Meanwhile, in the ethnically-mixed city of Baquba, capital of Diyala province to Baghdad's north, two people were killed and three others wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vest near a Shiite Muslim procession, according to police Major Furat al-Dulaimi.

It came as Shiites from around the world descend on Iraq for the commemoration of Ashura, which marks the slaying of the revered Imam Hussein by the armies of the Sunni caliph Yazid in 680.

Every day, thousands of pilgrims, many of them from Iran and other countries with large Shiite populations, visit Karbala and Iraq's other major Shiite shrines in Samarra, Najaf and Baghdad.

That number rises dramatically for Ashura as millions of pilgrims travel -- many on foot -- to Karbala, the home of shrines to Imam Hussein and his half-brother Imam Abbas.

According to the calculations of Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Ashura is to climax this year on December 17.

Though attacks remain common, violence has dropped dramatically since its peak in 2006 and 2007 -- the number of people killed in violence across Iraq last month was the lowest in a year for the second month running.