BAGHDAD (AP) — A suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden car among houses in an ethnic minority village in northern Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 15 people and extending a wave of bloodshed gripping the country.
The bombing happened in the Shabak village of al-Mouafaqiyah near the restive city of Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, police officials said.
The force of the blast leveled houses in the community and wounded at least 52 people, officials said. Rescue workers searched the rubble looking for survivors potentially trapped underneath.
The attack comes as Muslims around the world this week mark the religious holiday of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice. It is often a time for family celebrations and outings.
Hospital officials confirmed the casualties. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.
Iraq's small Shabak community is mostly concentrated around Mosul, the provincial capital of the ethnically mixed Ninevah province, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim. Sunni militants drove many out of the city during the sectarian fighting that raged after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The Shabak have their own distinct language and are primarily Shiite Muslim.
It is the second time the minority has been attacked in as many months. A suicide attack at a funeral in another Shabak village near Mosul in September killed at least 20 people.
Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and the surrounding area long have been a hotbed for hard-to-rout Sunni insurgents.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Thursday's blast, though suicide bombings and car bombings are a favorite tactic of Al-Qaida's local branch. It frequently targets Shiites, whom it considers heretics, and those seen as closely allied to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.
The United Nations envoy to Iraq condemned the attack and said rising violence in Ninevah province requires "urgent action and strengthened security cooperation" between regional authorities and the central government.
"The United Nations pays particular attention to the protection of minority communities who continue suffering from heinous attacks (and) economic and social barriers," envoy Nickolay Mladenov said.
Thursday's attack follows a car bombing in a Shiite village outside Mosul that is inhabited by ethnic Turkomen on Oct. 6. That blast, near a school in the small village of Qabak, killed 15, including a dozen children and their school principal.
Iraq is weathering its deadliest outburst of violence since 2008, raising fears the country is returning to the widespread sectarian killing that pushed it to the brink of civil war in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The U.N. reported 979 people killed violently in Iraq last month. More than 300 more people have died in attacks in Iraq so far this month, according to an Associated Press count.
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