Iraq: Two suicide bomb attacks kill 13

Soldiers guarded the scene of the Ramadi blast, which left a crater

Police in Iraq say two separate suicide attacks have left at least 13 people dead.

A suicide car bomb exploded near government offices in Ramadi in western Iraq's Anbar province, killing at least 11 people and injuring 40 more.

In Baquba in central Iraq a bomber killed two Shia pilgrims.

The blasts come as Prime Minister Nouri Maliki tries to form a government and end a long period of political uncertainty.

That process is part of a power-sharing agreement ending a record eight months of deadlock since Iraq held inconclusive elections in March.

Ramadi arrests

The blast in central Ramadi took place at 1000 (0700 GMT), officials say.

A suicide bomber drove his car up to the entrance of the heavily guarded local government headquarters.

Iraq's struggle for government

  • March: Elections give two-seat lead to former PM Iyad Allawi - not enough to form a government
  • June: Parliament meets for 20 minutes, MPs sworn in but delay formal return to work to give time for coalition talks
  • August: Iraq's Supreme Court orders parliament to re-convene
  • November: power-sharing deal agreed. Shia PM Nouri Maliki given 30 days to form government. Sunnis to get speaker plus new role for Mr Allawi. Kurds keep presidency

The bomb went off near the main checkpoint, killing policemen, civilians and the bomber.

Situated 100km (60 miles) west of Baghdad, Ramadi was a stronghold of Iraq's Sunni insurgency after the US-led occupation of Iraq in 2003, until local Sunni tribes turned against al-Qaeda in 2007.

That brought a period of quiet to the province, analysts say, but the number of attacks mounted ahead of March's elections.

In recent weeks Iraqi officials have made numerous arrests in the area of men they say are al-Qaeda militants.

No group has admitted carrying out Sunday's attacks, but the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad says the bomb in Ramadi will be seen by some at least as a response to those arrests.

In Baquba, the two pilgrims, a father and son, were preparing to mark the Shia commemoration of Ashura, which concludes later in the week.

A man wearing a suicide vest approached the procession and detonated his explosives, killing the two and wounding three others.

Iraq has struggled to find a workable government.

Last month, after more than eight months of limbo, squabbling and back-room negotiations, a deal was finally struck to allow Mr Maliki to remain in his post.

He has two weeks to form a cabinet in a bid to end the country's political impasse.

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