Middle East

Iraq interior ministry hit by suicide car bomber

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At least seven people have been killed in a suicide car bomb attack outside Iraq's interior ministry.

At least 27 others were also injured in the attack, which officials say happened at about 04:30 GMT.

On Thursday, a series of bombings killed nearly 70 people in the capital.

The attacks follow the withdrawal of the last US combat troops from the country after nearly nine years of military engagement.

The attacker rammed his explosive-laden car through the main gate when interior ministry officials opened it to allow maintenance workers in, a ministry official was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Ambulances could be heard rushing to the scene of the attack, as helicopters flew overhead.

"When I went outside I found my colleagues, some of them were killed, others were on the ground, many cars were burned," Zaid Raheem, a police guard, told the Reuters news agency.

The renewed violence comes as Iraq's year-old power-sharing government is in turmoil after an arrest warrant was issued for Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi on terror charges - accusations he denies.

The entire al-Iraqiyya group, the main Sunni bloc in parliament, is boycotting the assembly in protest. It accuses Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shia, of monopolising power.

Mr Hashemi is currently in Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, under the protection of the regional government, but Mr Maliki has demanded that they give him up.

US Vice-President Joe Biden on Sunday urged Iraq's leaders to work together to avoid further escalating tensions.

Mr Biden made calls to Mr Maliki and to Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani encouraging them to engage in dialogue, the White House said in a statement.

The BBC's Rafid Jaboori in Baghdad says the political crisis is of great concern to ordinary Iraqis as all attempts at mediation have so far failed to bring the opponents together.

These bombings bring yet more fear to the country at this critical moment after the US withdrawal, our correspondent adds.