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Dec 24, 8:00 AM EST

Iraqi officials: Suicide bomber attacks pro-government Sunni militias, kills 24 people


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BAGHDAD (AP) -- A suicide bomber detonated his payload among a group of pro-government Sunni militiamen near the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 24 people.

The attacker mingled with the militiamen as they gathered at a military base in the town of Madain, about 20 kilometers (14 miles) south of Baghdad, to receive their monthly paychecks, two police officers said. At least 15 of the dead were Sunni militiamen and the rest were soldiers, while 55 others were wounded, they said.

The Sunni militias, known as Sahwa or Awakening Councils, were formed at the height of Iraq's sectarian fighting in 2006 and 2007, and allied with U.S. troops against al-Qaida in Iraq, a precursor to the Islamic State extremist group. They are viewed as traitors by Sunni extremists fighting to overthrow the Shiite-led government.

In another attack, four civilians were killed and seven wounded when a bomb tore through an outdoor market in the town of Youssifiyah, 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Baghdad, a police officer said.

Four medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information to the media.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Wednesday's bombings, but they bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State group, which captured large swaths of western and northern Iraq in a summer blitz.

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