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Dec 29, 6:51 AM EST

Iraq: Suicide attack on funeral kills 15


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BAGHDAD (AP) -- A suicide bomber struck a funeral north of the Iraqi capital on Monday, killing at least 15 mourners, a government official said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan told The Associated Press that the bomber blew himself up inside a funeral tent in a farming area outside the mainly Sunni town of Taji, about 22 kilometers (12 miles) north of Baghdad.

He said another 26 mourners were wounded in the attack.

The funeral was for the father of two members of pro-government Sunni militias, known as Sahwa or Awakening Councils. The Sahwa militias began forming after the outbreak of Iraq's sectarian fighting in 2006, and allied with U.S. troops against al-Qaida in Iraq, a precursor to the Islamic State extremist group.

The government later took over the militias, integrating some members in the security forces and disbanding others.

Iraq hopes to revive the militias in order to fight the Islamic State group, which has exploited widespread Sunni discontent with the Shiite-led government. The extremist group seized much of northern and western Iraq over the summer, and also controls large swaths of neighboring Syria.

No one has claimed responsibility for Monday's attack in the Taji area, but it bore the hallmarks of the IS group, which frequently targets Sunnis allied with the Shiite-led government.

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Associated Press reporter Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report.

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