26 killed in separate attacks in Iraq

Twenty-six people were killed and dozens of others injured in separate attacks in violence-plagued Iraq on Saturday, provincial police source said.

At least 23 people were killed and 54 others wounded when a suicide bombing struck a rally of an election campaign in the city of Baquba, the capital of Diyala province in eastern Iraq, a provincial police source told Xinhua.

The attack occurred around noon when a suicide bomber blew up his explosive vest at a rally of the election campaign of Muthanna al-Jourani, a candidate for the secular bloc of Iraqia, in Baquba, some 65 km northeast of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, the source said on condition of anonymity.

Jourani himself was among the wounded, along with many local dignitaries and politicians, the source added. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. But such bombings were apparently an attempt by insurgent groups, including al-Qaida, to stir up sectarian strife among Iraqis ahead of the country's provincial elections scheduled for April 20.

Also on Saturday, unidentified gunmen attacked two civilians with silencer-mounted weapons in the Saidiya area southwestern of Baghdad, killing one of them and seriously wounding the other.

One civilian was killed and another wounded when a roadside bomb targeted a civilian car in Shirqat, 110 km north of Tikrit.

Furthermore, a civilian was killed and a policeman wounded when a roadside bomb targeted a police patrol in the Rifai district, west of Mosul, 400 km north of Baghdad.

Violence is still common in war-torn Iraq despite the dramatic decrease since its peak in 2006 and 2007 when the country was engulfed in sectarian killings.