Suicide bomber kills 7 of his own family in Iraq

The attack is the latest targeted killing in Iraq, which has seen a surge in violence six months after the last American troops withdrew.

Baghdad: A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged belt at a gathering of his own family in western Iraq, killing his pro-government cousin and six other relatives, officials said on Saturday.

The blast targeting a leader in the Sahwa militias in the city of Ramadi is a reminder of how extremism still divides Iraq`s Sunni Muslim minority, with some working with al Qaeda-linked insurgents against others who support the Shi’ite-led government.

The killing is part of a surge in violence six months after the last American troops withdrew.

The bomber entered the home of his cousin, the local Sahwa leader, last night as the extended family was gathered for a meal, said a police official in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, 115 kilometres west of Baghdad.

He approached the militiaman and detonated his explosives, killing his target as well as his wife, three of their teenage children, his brother and another relative, said the official. He could provide no other details including the number of wounded.

A hospital worker in Ramadi confirmed the deaths. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to release the information.

Anbar is the province where Sunni tribes first revolted against al Qaeda in late 2006 and 2007, joining US troops to fight the insurgency.

The movement was called Sahwa, or Awakening, and helped turned the tide of the war, although deadly attacks remain a grim fact of life for Iraqis. The Sahwa militia members are a favourite target of the Sunni insurgency, which sees them as traitors.

The last American troops left Iraq on December 18, nearly nine years after leading an invasion to oust dictator Saddam Hussein. Immediately after the withdrawal, al Qaeda unleashed a bloody wave of bombings and targeted killings.

Attacks had slightly decreased since January, but starting in early June, major bombings have come at a rate of every few days instead of every few weeks, killing at least 300 people.