Suicide attacks kill at least 48 in Iraq

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BAGHDAD (AP) — Twin suicide bombings killed 48 people on Sunday, including dozens from a government-backed, anti-al-Qaeda militia lining up to collect their paychecks near a military base southwest of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said.

The bombings were the deadliest in a series of attacks across Iraq on Sunday that were aimed at the Sons of Iraq, Sunni groups also known as Awakening Councils that work with government forces to fight al Qaeda in Iraq.

The attacks highlighted the stiff challenges the country faces as the United States scales back its forces in Iraq, leaving their Iraqi counterparts in charge of security.

The first attack Sunday morning — the worst against Iraq’s security forces in months — killed at least 45 people and wounded more than 40. It occurred at a checkpoint near a military base where the Awakening Council members had lined up to collect their paychecks in the mostly Sunni district of Radwaniya, southwest of the capital. 

“There were more than 150 people sitting on the ground when the explosion took place. I ran, thinking that I was a dead man,” said Uday Khamis, 24, who was sitting outside the Mahmoudiyah Hospital, where many of the wounded were taken. His left hand was bandaged, and his clothes were stained with blood.

“There were more dead than wounded,” he added.

At least a dozen men dressed in military-style uniforms were seen lying in pools of blood in front of a blast wall in footage taken by the Associated Press Television shortly after the explosion.

There were conflicting reports as to how many of the dead were Iraqi soldiers and whether any of the civilian accountants handing out money were among them.

A military official at the base said the explosion was the work of one suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Some of the injured complained about what the lack of protection from the Iraqi military for the men lined up to receive their paychecks. Khamis said the men used to be searched but this time they were allowed to line up without any checks being conducted.

Another man who was waiting at the hospital with his wounded nephew said this was the fifth day they had gone to the base to try and collect their paychecks.

“Every time they went to receive their salary, they told them to come the next day, and they did that for four days, and now in the fifth day this explosion took place,” Hassan Ali said.

The area was sealed off immediately, and Iraqi helicopters could be seen flying over the site.

In the second attack, a suspected militant stormed a local Awakening Council headquarters in the far western town Qaim, near the Syrian border, and opened fire on those inside.

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