BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber on Wednesday killed six people, including an Iraqi policeman, in an attack on security forces in a former insurgent stronghold in Iraq's western Anbar province, police said. A Baghdad bombing killed five other people.
The attacks highlighted the security challenges still facing Iraq despite a sharp drop in violence, and the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities at the end of last month. The pullout signals the growing confidence of Iraqi forces to handle security on their own, though tension among the country's factions remains a threat to stability.
Wednesday's attack in the western city of Ramadi was carried out by a suicide bomber driving a minibus who struck a checkpoint of Iraqi soldiers and police, killing a policeman and five civilians, said a local police officer. Earlier reports said six policemen were among the dead.
The attack injured 19 others, including five police, said the officer in Ramadi, which is located some 70 miles (115 kilometres) west of Baghdad. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Anbar used to be a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency but has been relatively quiet in recent months, partly because Sunni tribal leaders joined up with U.S.-led forces to fight extremists.
On Wednesday evening, a bomb in Baghdad's Sadr City district killed five people and injured another 23, all of them men, a police officer and a hospital official said on condition of anonymity. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The bomb was hidden in a plastic bag and exploded close to a big tent that was being used for the funeral service of the wife of a Shiite tribal leader, the officials said. Only men were in the tent, while female mourners were in a nearby house.
Abbas Hussein, an oil ministry employee and a resident of Sadr City, said he was on his way to the funeral when he saw a flash and felt the shock wave of the blast.
"We hurried toward the blazing tent. We found scattered chairs, tables, food on the ground mixed with blood, women covered with black from the house, shouting," he said. "My friend and I were on our way to a funeral for an old woman, but tomorrow we should go to a lot of funerals for this cruel blast."
Also Wednesday evening, a bomb went off in the mostly Shiite district of Karradah in central Baghdad, wounding nine civilians, police said.
There were no claims of responsibility for the blasts in Ramadi and Baghdad, but suspicion fell on Sunni extremists who have targeted security forces and Shiite communities in an apparent attempt to re-ignite sectarian strife and destabilize the country.
In Baghdad, dozens of mourners, including senior officials from the Interior Ministry, attended the funeral of the two traffic policemen who were killed in eastern Baghdad. Fellow traffic police motorcyclists led the funeral procession, which included the slain officers' wooden caskets wrapped in Iraqi flags.
The officers, Jassim Shuwaili, 24, and Hussein Qassim, 19, were chasing two gunmen in a speeding car after they refused to stop at a checkpoint near Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, according to Maj. Gen. Zuhair Ebada, head of traffic police operations in Baghdad's east side. One of the gunmen, who was later arrested, opened fire and killed the two motorcycle policemen.
Qassim, who joined traffic police six months ago, is survived by a wife and nearly two-year old baby. Shuwaili, who had three years of service on the force, was single.
"We ask the government to implement the ultimate the penalty against the criminals ... The martyr was serving his country and people," said Shuwaili's brother-in-law, Rafid Abdul-Hussein.
Separately, one person was killed and nine others were wounded when a bomb exploded near an Internet cafe late Tuesday night in south Baghdad. The explosion in a Shiite enclave in the mainly Sunni neighbourhood of Dora damaged the cafe and a nearby shop.
Associated Press Writer Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad contributed to this report.