Middle East

Iraq violence: Diyala mosque bomb attack 'kills 20'

Map of Iraq showing Baghdad, Baquba and the town on Wajihiya

A suicide bomb blast inside a Sunni mosque in central Iraq has killed at least 20 people and injured dozens more, officials say.

The explosion hit the Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Mosque in the town of Wajihiya in Diyala province, police said, wounding around 40 people.

A surge of violence in recent weeks has seen a number of mosques targeted.

More than 2,500 Iraqis have died in violent attacks since April, according to UN figures released this month.

Witnesses said the bomber in the latest attack had detonated his explosives as the imam was giving his sermon.

"I was sitting near the imam and the mosque was full of dozens of people when a big explosion happened, and the place went completely dark," said Omar Mundhir, who was injured in the leg.

"I found myself on the ground at the hospital later, with many other wounded," he told Agence France-Press.

Diyala is a religiously mixed province and saw some of the fiercest fighting sectarian fighting in the years after the US-led invasion in 2003.

Provincial official Sadiq al-Husseini said all the victims had been civilians, and called for people to show self-restraint.

"Terrorism is targeting all sects in Diyala mainly by attacking Sunni and Shiite mosques, funerals and football fields to draw the province into a sectarian conflict," he told the Associated Press.

The recent rise in violence comes amid heightened tensions between Iraq's Sunni and Shia communities, amid claims by the Sunnis that they are being marginalised by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Shia-led government.

Although the violence is less deadly than that seen during the heights of the insurgency in 2006 and 2007, it is the most widespread since the US military withdrawal in 2011.