A suicide car-bomber attacked a checkpoint near the government administrative building in Iraq's Anbar province capital of Ramadi, killing at least 13. Iraqi security forces are also on alert for threats before the Shi'ite Ashoura celebration this week in the south of the country.
Eyewitnesses say a suicide car-bomber detonated his vehicle at a checkpoint leading to government administrative buildings in Ramadi, causing numerous casualties.
A top Anbar province official, Jassem Mohammed al Hamed indicated the bomber was probably hoping to hit the government complex, but did not quite make it that far.
He says the bomber hit a checkpoint on the road leading up to the provincial government offices and the provincial council, but he was not able to get beyond it to reach the government buildings.
Police reports say at least six security force members manning the checkpoint were killed at the Ziyout round-about in central Ramadi.
A bombing near the Ramadi provincial headquarters a year ago created similar destruction, causing numerous casualties, including the provincial governor.
Iraqi government TV reported a second bombing in the same area was averted when police discovered and disarmed a vehicle rigged to explode in a nearby parking lot. The TV also indicated that Iraqi security forces arrested several dozen terrorist suspects across the country.
Iraq expert James Denselow of Kings College in London says scattered incidents like the Anbar province bombing are still taking place, but violence in general has decreased.
"Although the levels of violence have decreased somewhat, the West of Iraq is still a deeply divided and dangerous place, and the Iraqi security forces, as the guardians of the state, have been repeatedly targeted for their role in defending it," said James. "And, I think, there has been talk of an increase in foreign fighters back into Iraq recently, and although there is more political consensus today than in the past six months there are still outstanding issues to be addressed and as those issues have yet to be addressed politically there will always be instances of violence."
Elsewhere, in the Diyala province capital of Baquba, which has a mixed population of Shi'ite and Sunni Arabs, a suicide bomber struck near a Shi'ite Muslim religious procession.
Shi'ite pilgrims from across the Arab world are gathering this week in southern Iraq for the festival of Ashoura, marking the killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed in 680 AD.
A middle-aged man named Abbas explained the celebration.
He says that he and other pilgrims are offering their condolences over the death of Imam Hussein, along with the rest of the Arab world, now that the holy month of Muharram is upon us. He also asks God to allow the celebration to take place peacefully.
Iraqi government officials have said they are stepping up security for the annual event, deploying thousands of extra police and security forces to prevent bloodshed.