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Suicide Bomber Kills 11 In Iraq’s Anbar Province


Iraqi security forces inspect the damage at the site of the bombing in Ramadi.
RAMADI, Iraq (Reuters) -- A suicide bomber killed at least 11 people and wounded 21 today in Iraq's increasingly turbulent western Anbar province, a senior Iraqi army official and police said.

A medical source said Ramadi's main hospital had received 13 bodies and 26 people had been wounded.

Separately, in the violent city of Mosul in north Iraq a car bomb exploded near a police building, wounding 24 people.

Al-Qaeda's local offshoot has threatened to use violence to disrupt Iraq's parliamentary elections on March 7, for which politicians and candidates are campaigning.

A restaurant worker in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, said that bodies littered the scene of the bombing, close to a group of provincial government buildings.

Blood stained the ground, and gutted police and army vehicles smouldered nearby.

"A suicide bomber ... attacked the checkpoint of the police and army close to our restaurant. Some of them were killed. I saw around five or six bodies, and helped carry them to cars going to hospital," worker Hamid Ali said.

The mainly Sunni province was at one stage a safe haven for Sunni Islamist insurgents like Al-Qaeda, but tribal leaders turned on militants in late 2006, formed anti-insurgent militias in 2007 with U.S. backing and restored relative calm.

A series of blasts in recent months in the desert province, the nation's largest, shattered the peace in the run-up to the national vote, seen as a crucial test as Iraq emerges from decades of dictatorship, war and economic decline.

Suicide bombers killed more than 25 people in Ramadi, 100 km west of Baghdad, on December 30 and seriously wounded their main target, Anbar governor Qassim Mohammed.

Sunni Muslims largely boycotted the 2005 parliamentary election, helping fuel the insurgency. Many Sunni candidates plan to vote in the March ballot, though a ban on some top Sunni politicians for alleged links to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party has fanned sectarian tension.

Iraqi and U.S. officials hope the election will solidify the country's young democracy, by drawing former insurgents and militias into the political process, before a U.S. military withdrawal due by the end of 2011.