BAGHDAD: A suicide bomber killed 20 people and wounded dozens of others on Saturday at a political rally in the Iraqi city of Baqouba, officials said.
Provincial Councilman Sadiq al-Huseini said the bomber detonated his explosives as Muthana al-Jourani, who is a Sunni candidate for the council, was hosting lunch for supporters in a large hospitality tent pitched next to his house in the mixed Sunni-Shiite city, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad.
Violence is expected to surge in the lead up to Iraq's provincial elections on April 20.
A health official and police officer who provided details about the attack spoke anonymously because they weren't 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.
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 shake security in Iraq, hoping that will undermine confidence in the Shiite-led government. The hard-line Sunni extremists see Shiites, and those who work with them, as heretics.
A wave of deadly bombings and attacks in March prompted Iraqi officials to conclude that al-Qaida's Iraqi branch, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, has been getting stronger. They say rising lawlessness on the Syria-Iraq frontier and cross-border cooperation with the Syrian militant group Nusra Front has improved the militants' supply of weapons, foreign fighters and logistics.