BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber rushed into a neighborhood celebration for a man who had just been released from detention Sunday night, detonating his explosives and killing at least 25 people, police said.
The bomb blast occurred about 18 miles west of Baghdad in the Abu Ghraib district, a mainly Sunni Muslim area. It was one of several attacks that left at least 40 people dead in Iraq and underscored the threat still posed by insurgents despite improved security nationwide.
"Out of the blue, a very loud blast occurred," said Hameed Salim, a farmer who said the party host was celebrating the release of his son from U.S. detention. It was unclear why the son had been held, but residents said he had quarreled with al-Qaida members while in detention and may have been the target of the attack.
It was not known if the former detainee was among the casualties. Sunni insurgents frequently target fellow Sunnis if they are seen as supporters of U.S. forces or of the Iraqi government. Party guests included people associated with the Sons of Iraq, a program to bolster security with Sunni gunmen paid by the U.S. military.
The bomber struck about 9 p.m. as partygoers ate and danced, plunging the celebration into darkness and chaos.
"All I could hear were screams and shouts," said Salim, who was not badly injured. "People thought that I was injured because I was covered with blood, but it wasn't from injuries of mine. It was of others. Only God saved me."
Also Sunday, the military announced the arrest of a key al-Qaida in Iraq figure believed to have planned the abduction of U.S. journalist Jill Carroll in 2006.
A military statement said Salim Abdallah Ashur Shujayri, also known as Abu Uthman, is a Baghdad leader of al-Qaida in Iraq who oversaw some of the group's most heinous activities.
The military said U.S. forces were led to Shujayri on Aug. 11 after arresting a senior leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. That suspect led troops to a Shujayri associate who eventually turned him in.
Shujayri's associates included al-Qaida in Iraq members involved in the 2004 abduction of Margaret Hassan, the head of Care International in Iraq. She was found slain in November 2004.
Carroll, 28, a freelance correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, was kidnapped in January 2006 and held for 82 days.
Shujayri is the second high-ranking al-Qaida in Iraq figure to be captured or killed in connection with Carroll's abduction.