ALBU MOHAMMED, Iraq — A suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives walked into a funeral tent and blew himself up amid a crowd of men and boys gathered to mourn two slain tribesmen who fought in a U.S.-backed militia against al Qaida in Iraq.
As many as 60 people were killed, police said.
The funeral was for brothers Arif and Haithem Mhawish, who were gunned down Wednesday evening near their home in this tiny village of Albu Mohammed about 90 miles northeast of Baghdad. Both were members of an "awakening council," one of the U.S.-allied Sunni armed groups that have pledged to fight the Sunni al Qaida insurgency, police said.
Body parts, the scarves of tribesmen and scorched plastic chairs littered the scene of the bombing. An embittered family, internally displaced Sunnis from the southern port city of Basra, accused Iraq's security forces of failing to protect the mourners.
"Is it only now that they have come to us, after our boys have been killed? What's the use in you coming now?" shouted Umm Anmar, who lost her son and husband, at the Iraqi security forces arriving at the partially collapsed funeral tent.
At a nearby cemetery, clusters of women cried over the remains of their relatives as they waited in line for the gravedigger to bury the bodies.
"If they had been killed in the violence where we live, the deaths would have been better than them coming here to die like this," Umm Anmar said.
No group claimed responsibility, but authorities suspect that it was the work of al Qaida in Iraq, a mostly homegrown insurgent group that shares the ideology of the terror network created by Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden.
Authorities blamed al Qaida in Iraq for a series of bombings Tuesday in Baghdad and three provincial capitals that killed about 60 people and wounded nearly 120.
The Mhawish brothers had other relatives involved in the militias fighting al Qaida in Iraq. An uncle, Sheik Kareem Shamil, was forming awakening councils in two different villages, said Diyala Police Lt. Ibrahim Saleh. Shamil died in the blast.
"This bombing will increase the people's will to fight the al Qaida organization as the organization has just revealed its true dark face," Saleh said.
Earlier this week, the U.S. military presented documents, purportedly written by al Qaida-linked insurgents, that detailed plans to attack members of awakening councils. The documents, seized in a raid last month, instruct militants to attack the economy of Iraq and to weaken the fragile government.
Members of al Qaida in Iraq were ordered to "plant mines" in the villages of movement members, "infiltrate" territory held by awakening councils and later stage missile and other attacks, according to the confiscated literature.
"The enemy will become disorientated and afraid," one document reads. "The enemy will fight against each other."
(Ismail reports for the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader and wrote from Baghdad. An Iraqi correspondent who is not named for security reasons reported from al Atheim. McClatchy special correspondent Mohammed Al Dulaimy contributed from Baghdad.)