BAGHDAD (Reuters) â€” Bombs killed 30 people in a police recruitment centre in central Iraq and in a popular market in the north on Monday, as politicians wrangled over a federation bill some fear could unleash sectarian civil war.
US officials have warned of an increase in violence by Al Qaeda and other SunniÂ groups fighting the US-backed Shiite-led government ahead of the Holy Month of Ramadan, which starts in 10 days.
In the worst bloodshed, a bomb killed 17 people in a market in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, local police said. Police in nearby Mosul said the blast was caused by a suicide attacker who blew himself up in the market.
Earlier, a suicide car bomber killed 13 people in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.
Ramadi police captain Ahmed Ali told Reuters the driver struck outside a recruitment centre where a number of volunteers were gathering to join the police force.
The city is the capital of Anbar province, the deadliest for US troops. Sunni Â groups including Al Qaeda frequently attack recruiting centres for the Iraqi army and police, key parts of Washington’s plans to eventually withdraw its forces.
The violence â€” a day after a wave of car bombs killed 23 people in the volatile, ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk â€” came as Shiite and Sunni leaders held last-minute talks to break a deadlock over a bill that defines the mechanism of federalism.
Shiite lawmakers plan to introduce the bill in parliament on Tuesday despite opposition from minority Sunni Arabs, who want amendments to the constitution giving them more rights.
Some Shiite leaders want to create a “super region” in the oil-rich south, modelled on that of ethnic Kurds in the north.
Sunnis fear that would break up Iraq and cut them off from its oil wealth, which is mostly in the north and south.
Prime Minister Nuri Maliki’s government said it would take over formal security control of a second of Iraq’s 15 non-Kurdish provinces from foreign forces this week.
Southern Dhi Qar province, now policed by Italian troops under British command, will follow Muthana province, handed over by the British in July.
Maliki has said his forces should be in charge of most of Iraq by the end of the year although other Cabinet members have offered a more cautious timetable.
Government spokesman Ali Dabbagh also that Iraq would assume command of its 4th army division, the second of 10 army divisions to be placed under Iraqi command by US forces.
Under a plan American officials hope will weed out sectarian death squads infiltrated in its ranks, Iraq’s entire police force will undergo a monthlong re-training course, an interior ministry official said on Monday.
Sunnis, once dominant under Saddam Hussein, are now the core of an insurgency against the Shiite-led government. Maliki, hoping to defuse the rebellion, has included Sunnis in his national unity government.
But many Sunnis say Shiite groups operating within police forces are partly responsible for a wave of killings that have seen victims discovered bound, tortured, shot and dumped in the streets of Baghdad every day.
Fourteen bodies, tortured and with bullet holes in the head, were collected in different areas of Baghdad on Monday, a ministry of interior source said. More than 200 such apparent death squad victims have surfaced in Baghdad in the last six days.
One group that has tried to stay out of the firing line in Iraq’s violence are the country’s million or so Christians. But last week’s comments by Pope Benedict that angered Muslims have raised fears that Christians could be targets.
A Sunni insurgent umbrella group led by Al Qaeda’s Iraq branch vowed war against “worshippers of the cross” on Monday, and about 150 protesters in mainly Shiite Basra burned the Pope in effigy.
Iraq’s government has called for Muslims not to take their anger out on their Christian neighbours.