Suicide bomber kills 42 mourners at Iraq funeral

Another 75 mourners were injured by bomber at Shiite mosque.

KIRKUK, Iraq // A suicide bomber blew himself up in the middle of a packed funeral in a Shiite mosque, yesterday, killing at least 42 people.

The attack, which also left 75 people injured, is likely to heighten tensions at a time when Iraq is grappling with a political crisis, and after more than a month of protests in Sunni-majority areas that have hardened opposition against Shiite prime minister Nouri Al Maliki.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

The militant struck at the Sayid Al Shuhada mosque in Tuz Khurmatu, 175 kilometres north of Baghdad, during the funeral of a politician's relative who was killed by gunmen a day earlier.

Niyazi Moamer Oghlu, the secretary general of the provincial council of Salaheddin, which surrounds Tuz Khurmatu, put the toll from the attack at 42 dead and 75 wounded.

"Corpses are on the ground of the Shiite mosque," said Shallal Abdul, the mayor of Tuz Khurmatu. "The suicide bomber managed to enter and blow himself up in the middle of the mourners."

Among the wounded were officials and tribal leaders, including Ali Hashem Oghlu, the deputy chief of the Iraqi Turkman Front and a provincial councillor in Salaheddin.

The funeral was for his brother-in-law, who was shot dead in Tuz on Tuesday.

The bombing came a day after a wave of attacks in the country that killed 26 people and wounded dozens.

The violence broke four days of relative calm in Iraq, following a spate of attacks, claimed by Al Qaeda's front group, that killed at least 88 people between January 15 and 17.

The militant group is widely seen as weaker than it was during the peak of Iraq's sectarian bloodshed, but is still capable of carrying out mass-casualty attacks on a regular basis.

The latest wave of violence meant the overall death toll from bloodshed in Iraq this month has already surpassed that of any of the previous three months, according to a tally based on reports from security and medical officials. Attacks in Iraq are down from their peak in 2006-2007, but they are still common across the country.

The unrest has erupted amid a political crisis that has pitted Mr Al Maliki against several of his erstwhile government partners, less than three months before provincial elections.