Suicide bombers targeting a government-backed militia opposed to al-Qaeda killed at least 44 people and hurt dozens in three separate attacks, Iraqi police said. The Associated Press said the toll had risen to 48 dead.
At least 40 people died and 35 were hurt in the first bombing, which occurred as members of the Sons of Iraq militia were queuing to collect their monthly pay slips outside an Iraqi army base in Radwaniya, about 15 kilometers (nine miles) southwest of the capital, the police said in a statement.
In the second assault, four Sons of Iraq fighters were killed and seven others wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest inside a house in al-Qaim, 550 kilometers west of Ramadi city near the Syrian border in Anbar province.
More than four months after an inconclusive parliamentary election on March 7, Iraq has no new government as politicians continue to argue over the distribution of top posts. Iraqi leaders, including national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, have said the political vacuum is encouraging militants.
The Sons of Iraq, also known as the Sahwa or the Awakening Councils, was organized by the American military when attacks peaked in 2006-07. The U.S. hailed the decision of the former Sunni Muslim insurgents and tribesmen who form its ranks to turn against al-Qaeda as a key element in a decline in violence.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shiite Muslim-led administration took charge of the 90,000-strong force in 2008; since then members have complained of being mistreated and say the government has failed to protect the group from al-Qaeda revenge attacks.
All of those who died in the blast in Radwaniya were Sons of Iraq members, the police said. In a third incident, Amr al-Tamimi, a former Sons of Iraq fighter, was killed by a bomb hidden under a car, state-sponsored al-Iraqiyah television said.
The Obama administration will have scaled back its force to about 50,000 by the end of August from a peak of about 165,000 in 2007, leaving Iraq to provide for its own security.
In Washington, Vice President Joe Biden said the drawdown is on schedule and he is confident U.S. troops will return home from Iraq according to the timetable that has been set out.
“I don’t have a doubt in my mind that we’ll be able to meet the commitment of having only 50,000 troops there and it will not in any way affect the physical stability of Iraq,” he told ABC’s “This Week” program.