Two suicide bombers targeting members of a government-backed,anti-al-Qaeda militia struck within hours of each other early Sunday,killing at least 48 people and wounding dozens more,Iraqi officials said. The bombings were the deadliest in a series of attacks across Iraq Sunday that were aimed at the Sons of Iraq,a Sunni group also known as Sahwa that works with government forces to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The first attack Sunday morning killed at least 45 people and wounded more than 40. It occurred at a checkpoint near a military base where Sahwa members were lined up to receive paychecks in the mostly Sunni district of Radwaniya southwest of Baghdad.
There were more than 150 people sitting on the ground when the explosion took place, said Uday Khamis, 24,who was sitting at Mahmoudiyah hospital where the wounded were taken.
An official at the base said the explosion was the work of one suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest. In Baghdad,Iraqi military spokesman Maj Gen Qassim al-Moussawi said the bomber struck at 7 am at a military checkpost.
In the second attack,a militant stormed a Sahwa headquarter in the Anbar province town of Qaim,near the Syrian border,and opened fire on those inside. Sahwa fighters returned fire,wounding the attacker,who then blew himself up as they gathered around him,killing three of the fighters and wounding six others.
Sahwa fighters rose up against their former al-Qaeda allies in 2006. But their future role in the Shia-majority country is contentious. The US used to pay the monthly salaries of about $300 to the nearly 100,000-strong Sahwa force. Last year,the government took over payments and after pressure from the US,agreed to absorb 20 per cent of the fighters into forces. Others were to be absorbed into government jobs. But members of the Sahwa have complained of late paychecks and many have been given menial jobs.