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Blast rips Sunni candidate's rally in Iraq

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 9:06 p.m.

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber blew himself up on Saturday at a lunch hosted by a Sunni candidate in Iraq's upcoming regional elections, killing 20 people, officials said.

The blast ripped through a hospitality tent pitched next to the house of Muthana al-Jourani, who is running for the provincial council and held the lunch rally for supporters, Councilman Sadiq al-Huseini said.

The attack was in Baqouba, a mixed Sunni-Shiite city northeast of Baghdad. Insurgent attacks and sectarian bloodletting have been rampant there in the decade since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Violence is expected to surge in the run-up to Iraq's provincial elections April 20.

A health official and police officer who provided details about the attack spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to media.

The police officer said al-Jourani, who was injured in the attack, had not requested any extra security for the political event.

In the city's morgue, at least 10 bodies lay strewn on the ground, draped in black plastic sheets. Emergency crews treated the wounded. At the site of the bombing, white plastic chairs were overturned and men stood dazed in blood-stained clothing.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the police officer said the attack was the hallmark of al-Qaida militants who have used suicide bombers, car bombings and coordinated attacks to try to destabilize the country and undermine confidence in the Shiite-led government.

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