A suicide bombing has killed at least 22 people in the Iraqi city of Baquba ahead of a vote in a packed election campaign tent. A string of candidates for a poll in April have been killed in recent weeks.
A suicide bomber detonated his explosives up in the election tent of Sunni Muslim candidate Muthana al-Jourani on Saturday, killing at least 22, officials said.
More than 60 people were said to have been injured in the attack in Baquba, 65 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of the capital, Baghdad. Al-Jourani, who had been hosting a lunch for supporters in a large hospitality tent by his house, was injured but survived.
The attack began with a grenade being thrown by a militant into the tent, where the suicide bomber blew himself up only moments later.
Al-Jourani, who was understood not to have requested extra protection, had been campaigning for a place on the election list of a small local party, Azimum Ala al-Bina. The practice of putting up campaign tents is commonplace in Iraq, with candidates using them as a venue to explain policies.
The country has been struggling with a bout of sectarian violence, which has worsened as elections draw ever closer. In all, 10 candidates have been killed in recent weeks mostly from the Iraqiya bloc led by ex-Prime Minister and secular Shiite Iyad Allawi.
While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, al Qaeda militants are among the suspects, being keen to discredit a government led by Shiites. Elections are to be held in 12 of 18 provinces, with voting canceled in the remaining six because of security concerns.
The latest violence rages as a crisis deepens between the large, once-dominant Shiite community, about a third of the population, and the government. Thousands of Sunnis have held protests in the past 100 days, demanding that Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki repeal laws which they say discriminate against Sunnis.
rc/mkg (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)