BAGHDAD — A female suicide bomber concealing explosives beneath her black robe struck outside a government complex northeast of Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 40, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.
It was the 21st suicide mission carried out by a woman in Iraq this year, the U.S. military said, as al-Qaida and other Sunni militant groups try to regroup from major losses suffered at the hands of U.S. and Iraqi forces.
The blast occurred about 1 p.m. as dozens of people were leaving a walled compound that includes a courthouse and the provincial governor's office in Baqubah, capital of Diyala province and a former al-Qaida in Iraq stronghold 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.
A car bomb across the street from the same compound killed at least 40 people in April.
It appeared that the latest attack was timed to maximize casualties. Many people were leaving the compound because the government offices were to close soon for the day.
A U.S. military statement said the dead included seven Iraqi police and eight civilians. Ten police were among the wounded. Iraqi authorities said 16 people were killed and 42 wounded.
Al-Qaida has been increasingly using women because their black, billowing abaya robes easily conceal explosives. Iraqi police often lack enough female officers to search women carefully.
The number of female suicide attacks has risen from eight in 2007 to 21 so far this year, according to U.S. military figures.