BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber wearing the camouflage uniform and flag emblem of an Iraqi Army soldier blew himself up Sunday near a celebration commemorating the military's founding.
Three soldiers restrained the bomber as he tried to push his way inside the party where people were dancing and singing, but his suicide vest detonated, killing all three. Another guard and a civilian standing nearby also were killed, and at least four more people were injured, the U.S. military said.
It was the deadliest of several attacks on Sunday that targeted military members celebrating the 87th anniversary of the army's founding and people enjoying the holiday off work and school.
A group that promotes unity in Iraq held the celebration inside Karrada, one of Baghdad's safest neighborhoods, home to Sunnis, Shiites and Christians. As Iraqi soldiers began firing their weapons in response, people ducked and ran from the area, leaving behind piles of broken glass, overturned furniture and spilled cans of soft drinks. Pools of blood and body parts still stained the street outside the house hours later. The remains of the bomber and his shredded uniform lay in a garbage bag nearby.
"It was a terrible moment, seeing the soldiers' blood covering the street on their day," said Seif Ahmed, a member of Iraqi Unity Association, which sponsored the celebration. "I have no idea why something like that happens and on this day."
Violence is down overall in Iraq, but the number of suicide bombings has increased in recent days, especially in Diyala province. Al Qaida in Iraq, the group U.S. Gen. David Petraeus calls the top enemy in Iraq, shifted its operations to areas north of Baghdad after U.S.-backed Sunni militias began working against it in western Anbar province.
The number of attacks jumped in Baghdad as streets filled with people heading out on their extra day off. A car bomb exploded outside a popular restaurant in Qahira neighborhood, killing three people and injuring 15. Four improvised explosive devices went off in quick succession in a car sales lot, killing one person and injuring four.
Also on Sunday, car bombs went off outside two Christian churches and a monastery in the northern city of Mosul. The churches were mostly empty, but five people from one family were injured by one of the explosions.
Lately, the Iraqi Army, police and members of U.S.-funded militias have been frequent targets of attacks. Sunday morning, police said, gunmen touting silenced weapons assassinated a Shiite sheikh who supported the creation of a U.S.-funded militia in the Shiite neighborhood of Shaab.
Sunday's suicide bombing followed a New Year's Day attack on a funeral in Baghdad that killed at least 34 and injured at least 38. The funeral was heavily attended by Iraqi military and police officers.
Gumbrecht reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Khadim is a special correspondent in Baghdad.