ISKANDARIYA, IRAQ // A suicide bomber targeted a group of Sunni Arab militiamen south of Baghdad today as they queued at an Iraqi army post to collect pay, killing nine and wounding 31, police said. The US-sponsored Sunni patrolmen, or Sahwas, helped cut violence in Iraq after they turned on al Qa'eda and other insurgent groups, but ties between them and the Shiite-led government in Baghdad have been strained in recent weeks by the arrest of Sahwa leaders.
The attack took place in Iskandariya, 40km south of the Iraqi capital, which was once part of an area known as the "Triangle of Death" where Sunni Islamist extremists frequently attacked Shiite Muslims. The bombing occurred as the men were waiting to get overdue money from the authorities. Delays in paying the Sahwas, also known as "Awakening Councils", have contributed to tensions between them and the government.
"The Sahwa men were preparing to enter the military post to receive their salaries when a suicide bomber managed to blow himself up among them, killing nine of them," said police colonel Ali al-Zahawi, the head of Iskandariya police. Violence across Iraq has fallen dramatically during the past year but insurgents and militants continue to carry out frequent car and suicide bomb attacks. Suicide bombings are a hallmark of al Qa'eda.