DIWANIYAH // Two suicide car bombs ripped through a guard post, killing 26 people outside the provincial governor's home in Diwaniyah city yesterday, officials said, as violence surged across Iraq.
Most of the dead were policemen, a medic said, while a defence ministry official said 29 people were wounded in the powerful twin blasts.
A police colonel said Diwaniyah provincial governor Salam Hussein Alwan was the target of the attack but was late in leaving home and escaped unharmed, as did his family.
"The plan was for the bombs to explode as the governor left for work in his convoy of vehicles," he said.
The colonel said the bombs exploded at 7.45am at a police barrier about 30 metres from the governor's home, seriously damaging blast walls protecting the compound.
A defence ministry spokesman, Mohammed Al Askari said 26 people were killed and 29 were wounded.
"Two suicide bombers exploded their car bombs targeting the governor's home," he said. "The first bomber detonated the bomb at the entrance of the compound, and three minutes later the second bomber did the same at the same spot," he added.
Earlier, a medic at the main hospital in Diwaniyah, 160 kilometres south of Baghdad, said 21 dead bodies had been received, all of them policemen, and many of them burnt. Thirty-five wounded people had been brought to the hospital.
"All of the dead are policemen," the medic said. "Among the wounded are 30 policemen and five civilians, two children, two men and a woman, people whose homes were nearby," he added.
Casualty figures often differ in the immediate aftermath of an attack in Iraq, because of the ensuing chaos and confusion.
Abdullah Abdul Hussein, a 45-year-old labourer, said he was also on his way to work when the explosions occurred.
"First one car exploded, and then another. There were bodies everywhere, and cars burning," he said.
"One car was thrown by the force of the blast, and I saw many bodies, some of them so burnt that you could not tell if it was a man or woman," he added.
Charred and mangled heaps of metal were all that remained of the cars used in the blasts. The fortified entrance to the governor's compound was a mess of sandbags and bricks, with walls spotted with soot.
Mr Alwan is a member of Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki's State of Law alliance.
Attacks against government officials and facilities have shot up in recent months, as Iraqi leaders bicker over key security posts left vacant since a March 2010 general election.
"Al Qaeda's hand is behind the attack," said Intesar Al Musawi, a member of the provincial council. "They want to kill the governor."
The car bombs were part of a string of blasts yesterday in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq that killed at least another four people and wounded 16, including two policemen and three soldiers, interior and defence ministry officials said.
Yesterday's violence came after a spate of gun and bomb attacks on Monday, including a blast next to a French embassy car that wounded seven Iraqis. Four French security personnel inside the armoured vehicle escaped unhurt.