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Aug 23, 8:52 AM EDT

Suicide car bomber hits Iraqi Interior Ministry office, kills at least 11 people


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BAGHDAD (AP) -- A suicide bomber hit an interior ministry building in central Baghdad and killed at least 11 people on Saturday, officials said, as an investigation was underway into a deadly attack on a Sunni mosque that has heightened sectarian tension as the country undergoes a fragile political transition.

The suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden car into the gate of the intelligence headquarters in Karrada district in the early afternoon, killing six civilians and five security personnel, a police officer said. He added that 24 other people were wounded.

A medical official confirmed causality figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to brief the media.

The attacks came hours after parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri said that a committee of security officials and lawmakers would announce the findings of an investigation into Friday's attack against a village mosque in Diyala province in two days' time.

It remained unclear whether the attack in the village of Imam Wais was carried out by Shiite militiamen or insurgents from the Islamic State group who have been advancing into mixed Sunni-Shiite areas in Diyala province and have been known to kill fellow Sunni Muslims who refuse to submit to their harsh interpretation of Islamic law.

Since early this year, Iraq has faced an onslaught by the Islamic State extremist group and allied Sunni militants who have taken control of areas in the country's west and north. The crisis has worsened in June, when the group seized Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul and subsequently declared an Islamic state, or caliphate, in territory under its control in both Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Local security officials in Diyala said the attack began with a suicide bombing near the mosque entrance, followed by gunmen who stormed the building and opened fire on worshippers. At least 64 people were killed, including four Shiite militiamen who stumbled upon bombs planted by the militants as they rushed to the scene with security forces.

Sunni lawmakers offered a different account, saying Shiite militiamen had launched a reprisal attack on the mosque after their convoy was bombed.

The attack led two major Sunni parliamentary blocs to pull out of talks on forming a new government. The move creates a major hurdle for Shiite prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi as he struggles to reach out to Sunnis to form a government by Sept. 10 that can confront the Islamic State extremists.

In a press conference, al-Jabouri did not say who might have been behind the attack, saying only that such violence was "carried out by the same hands (of those) who want to derail the process of building the government."

Jabouri heads one of the blocs that suspended talks, but he declined to comment on the move at the press conference, saying he was there in his capacity as parliament speaker.

Imam Wais village is located about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad in the ethnically and religiously mixed Diyala province, which saw heavy fighting at the height of Iraq's sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007.

Firat al-Tamimi, a Diyala lawmaker, said there are conflicting accounts surrounding Friday's events. He confirmed, however, that there was a bombing near the mosque prior to the assault on worshippers.

Iraqi President Fouad Massoum, a Kurd, condemned Friday's attack and appealed "to all for self-restraint and to act wisely." He promised the incident would be "properly investigated and its perpetrators held to account."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he's "deeply concerned about the impact such acts of sectarian violence will have on the already grave security situation and on the political process." The European Union said the "heinous crime" should not stand in the way of government formation and urged Iraqis to unite against violence.

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Associated Press writers Vivian Salama and Murtada Faraj in Baghdad and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.

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