More than 40 die in violence across Iraq

Attackers descended on a police chief’s house north-east of Baghdad today, killing the official’s wife, two brothers and 11 guards, and kidnapping three of his adult children, Diyala provincial police reported.

Attackers descended on a police chief’s house north-east of Baghdad today, killing the official’s wife, two brothers and 11 guards, and kidnapping three of his adult children, Diyala provincial police reported.

The attack outside Baqouba, which came when the police chief was not at home, was one of the boldest and bloodiest in months of stepped-up violence around the city, where al-Qaida in Iraq and affiliated groups have been fighting US and Iraqi forces and local insurgents who have turned against al Qaida.

Elsewhere in northern Iraq, bombings struck a Shiite mosque in a town near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, killing at least 13 people and wounding 14, police said.

A parked car exploded near worshippers leaving the Thaqalain mosque after Friday prayers in the predominantly Shiite town of Dakok, about 28 miles south of Kirkuk, a police chief said.

About five minutes later, a suicide bomber was spotted driving toward the mosque but policemen in a nearby station opened fire on him and he exploded, the police chief said.

Police said earlier that the men were on foot and wearing explosives vests, but the police chief provided new details after touring the site of the blasts.

Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, is the centre of Iraq’s northern oil fields.

Ethnic tensions have risen in the area as Kurds seek to incorporate the city into their self-governing region in northern Iraq. They won a major concession in March when they pressured the government of Iraqi prime minister Nouri Maliki into approving plans to move thousands of Arabs out of Kirkuk and resettle them elsewhere.

In southern Iraq today, a parked minibus exploded at a bus terminal in the town of Qurnah. A hospital director said at least 16 people were killed and 32 wounded.

The continuing violence came a day after the four-year US military death toll in Iraq passed the 3,500 mark, after a soldier was reported killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad.

The US fatality rate has risen as reinforced troops have gone more on the offensive against insurgents in Baghdad and surrounding areas, such as Diyala, in a new security crackdown aimed at restoring more order to central Iraq.

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