- Associated Press - Thursday, February 14, 2019

BAGHDAD (AP) - A roadside bomb north of Baghdad killed nine members of the Iraqi security forces on Thursday, including a counter-explosives official and a commander in a militia headed by populist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, authorities said.

The blast, which took place on a road in the Makhoul mountains approximately 60 miles (96 kilometers) north of the capital, killed Col. Ghalib Dawri, head of counter-explosives operations in Salahuddin province, said Member of Parliament Muthana al-Samarraie.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, and officials did not identify any suspects.

Eight members of the Saraya al-Salam militia, or the Peace Brigades, were also killed, including commander Hussein Attiyeh, according to a security official and a militia spokesman, who both spoke on the condition of anonymity, in line with media regulations.

The militia manages security for the nearby holy city of Samarra, home to the al-Askari Shrine, revered by Shiite Muslims. It is a part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of militias that has been incorporated into the country’s security apparatus.

Al-Sadr, the cleric in command of Saraya al-Salam, is also a leading political figure. His political coalition came in first in parliamentary elections last year.

But the blast is the latest in a string of bombings, ambushes, kidnappings, and targeted assassinations along roads and in villages in areas north and west of Baghdad. The Islamic State group has claimed many of them. The Iraqi government claimed victory over the organization in late 2017 after four years of war.

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