Baghdad - A suicide bomber blew himself up Saturday at a lunch hosted by a Sunni candidate in Iraq's upcoming regional elections, killing 20 people, officials said.
The blast ripped through a hospitality tent pitched next to the house of Muthana al-Jourani, who is running for the provincial council and held the lunch rally for supporters, councilman Sadiq al-Huseini said.
The attack took place in Baqouba, a mixed Sunni-Shi'ite city 60km northeast of Baghdad. Insurgent attacks and sectarian bloodletting have been rampant there in the decade since the 2003 US-led invasion. Violence is expected to surge in the run up to Iraq's provincial elections on 20 April.
A health official and police officer who provided details about the attack spoke anonymously because they weren't authorised to speak to media.
The police officer said al-Jourani, who was injured in the attack, had not requested any extra security for the political event.
In the city's morgue, at least 10 bodies lay strewn on the ground, draped in black plastic sheets. Emergency crews treated the wounded. At the site of the bombing, white plastic chairs were overturned and men, apparently in shock, stood dazed in blood-stained clothing.
Eyewitness Ahmad al-Hadlouj, a 34-year-old who was wounded in the blast, said hundreds of people had gathered in the side street for the rally. His father, a member of the candidate's political bloc, was also wounded.