By Jamal Hashim
Up to 11 people were killed and 21 others wounded when a suicide car bomb on Thursday struck a security checkpoint outside provincial government offices in Ramadi, capital of western Iraq's Anbar province, a provincial police source and witnesses said.
"Police and hospitals reports said that 11 people were killed and 21 injured by the attack near the government compound in Ramadi," a source from the provincial police operations office told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Four policemen were among the killed and four others were among the wounded, the source added.
The attack occurred at about 11:00 a.m. (0800 GMT) when a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into a checkpoint manned by policemen and Iraqi soldiers near the main entrance of the provincial government compound in central Ramadi, some 100 km west of Baghdad, the source said.
Stains of blood spread on the scene while several military vehicles and civilian cars could be seen burning nearby.
"I was heading to the government compound when the blast took place some 50 meters away from me," Khalaf Mahmoud, who escaped with slight wounds, told Xinhua in Ramadi Hospital.
"I remember I saw one of the civilian cars with two men inside approached to the checkpoint and blew up. It was a terrible blast, thanks God, I am lucky to survive," Mahmoud said.
Iraqi security forces sealed off the scene while dozens of them deployed in the surrounding area and blocked the main roads leading to the scene, the police said.
A police officer, who declined to be named, told Xinhua at the scene that he blamed the al-Qaida militants for the attack, "particularly after the al-Qaida leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi recently pledged that his militants will carry out attacks before the national elections."
On Feb. 13, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the top leader of al-Qaida and head of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), threatened to attack the country's parliamentary elections slated for March 7.
"We decided to prevent the elections by all possible and legitimate means, primarily, the military means," al-Baghdadi said in a statement posted on the Internet.
Anbar province which has been relatively calm in the past few years after Sunni tribes and anti-U.S. insurgent groups turned to cooperate with the U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces against al-Qaida in Iraq network.
However, the province has increasingly seen deadly attacks in recent months, including the Dec. 30 twin bombings that seriously wounded Anbar's governor Qassim Mohammed Abid, along with killing 23 people and wounding 57 others.
U.S. and Iraqi officials have frequently said they expected increased violence ahead of the country's March elections, in which around 19 million eligible voters, including 1.4 million living abroad in 16 countries, will elect 325 lawmakers out of over 6,000 candidates for the upcoming parliament.