By Sameer N. Yacoub
BAGHDAD: A suicide bomber attacked a funeral Saturday in northern Iraq attended by members of an ethnic minority, part of a series of assaults that killed at least 25 across the country, officials said.
Iraq is weathering its deadliest bout of violence in five years, raising fears that the country is returning to a period of widespread killing similar to the one that pushed it to the brink of civil war following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
More than 4,000 people have been killed in violent attacks since the start of April, including 804 just in August, according to United Nations figures.
In the suicide attack, the bomber detonated his explosive belt inside a tent during the afternoon ceremony held by members of the Shabak minority near the city of Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.
Authorities said the blast in the village of Arto Kharab killed at least 20 people and wounded 35.
The funeral was for a member of the Shabak minority who had died of natural causes, officials said.
The Shabaks are ethnic Turkomen and Shiite Muslims. Most of them live in villages east of Mosul, the provincial capital of the ethnically mixed Ninevah province that is predominantly Sunni Muslim.
There was no immediate claim for the funeral attack, but Mosul has been a hub for al-Qaida in Iraq in past years. Militants have used violence and intimidation to drive hundreds of members of minority groups out of the city.
Al-Qaida’s local branch, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has claimed responsibility for a number of large-scale bombings in recent months and is believed to be behind other coordinated attacks.
The branch and other Sunni extremists have tried to harness the anger of many Sunnis, even as more moderate members of the sect appeal for calm.
Al-Qaida frequently targets Shiite civilians, members of the security forces and those seen to be closely tied to the country’s Shiite-led government.
There has also been a spike in attacks on Sunni mosques in recent months. While it is possible that Sunni extremists could be to blame, Shiite militias that had been largely quiet for years may also be behind those assaults.
The rising tensions between Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite Muslims are being inflamed in part by the sectarian divisions reflected in the civil war in neighboring Syria.
In other violence Saturday, police said a roadside bomb hit a car in Dujail town, just north of the capital, killing the driver and his wife.
Police also said an 11-year-old boy was killed when a bomb struck a minibus near Suleiman Beg town, about 95 miles northeast of Baghdad.
Gunmen also stormed a tile factory in eastern Baghdad, killing the factory owner and a worker, police said.
Officials in nearby hospitals confirmed the death toll.