MOSUL: A suicide bombing on Saturday killed a senior Iraqi intelligence officer and two guards near the main northern city of Mosul, while other blasts left two more dead, officials said.
The attacks were the latest in an uptick in violence that comes as Iraq grapples with nearly two months of anti-government protests and a political crisis.
Brigadier General Aouni Ali, the head of the country’s main intelligence academy, and two of his guards were killed in the bombing outside his home in Tal Afar, near Mosul, police and a doctor said.
“Guards killed one suicide bomber, but when the brigadier general and his bodyguards went out another bomber ran among them and blew himself up,” a local official said.
Police say Aouni was the head of the intelligence academy in the Iraqi defence ministry. A medic in Tal Afar hospital confirmed the death toll. Tal Afar town is just outside Mosul, 390 km north of the capital Baghdad.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack. But suicide bombings are the hallmark of Al Qaeda’s local wing, Islamic State of Iraq, which aims to take back ground lost in its long battle with US and Iraqi forces.
Also north of Baghdad, a judge was killed by a magnetic “sticky bomb” attached to his car in the village of Sulaiman Pak, according to security and medical officials.
Ahmed Al Bayati, a Sunni Arab who is now a judge handling civil cases, had previously received threats while he was working as an anti-terror investigator, and had to pay kidnappers a $150,000 ransom after his son was snatched last year.
Elsewhere, a roadside bomb killed an army lieutenant and wounded two other soldiers in Heet, northwest of the capital.
No group claimed responsibility for the blasts, but Sunni militants linked to Al Qaeda often target security forces and government officials in a bid to push Iraq back to the sectarian bloodshed that blighted it from 2005 to 2008.
Iraq has seen a rise in attacks in recent weeks, with January the deadliest month since September, according to an AFP tally.
Levels of violence remain markedly lower than during the peak of the sectarian war in 2006 and 2007, however, insurgent attacks are still frequent.
Sunni insurgents tied to Qaeda have stepped up bombings on Iraqi Shiite targets and security forces in a campaign of sectarian violence.
Increasing sectarian violence has accompanied growing political unrest in Iraq as thousands of Sunnis in western provinces rally against Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, accusing him of marginalising their minority sect.
More than 10 suicide attackers have struck security forces, Shiite targets and a lawmaker since January.
Last year, more than 4,400 people were killed, the first annual climb in Iraq’s death toll in three years.
Sunni unrest and renewed violence are worsening fears the war in neighbouring Syria — where Sunni rebels are battling President Bashar Al Assad, an ally of Shi’ite Iran — could undermine Iraq’s delicate sectarian and ethnic balance.