BAGHDAD — At least 15 Iraqis were killed Wednesday in a Diyala province car bombing, the third fatal bombing attack this week in the volatile region northeast of Baghdad.
Separately, a U.S. soldier was mortally wounded in a roadside blast Wednesday in Diyala, officials said. The military said the soldier was treated at the scene before being evacuated to a U.S. military hospital in Balad.
Diyala, with its mixed Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish population, has been a longtime battleground for the country's sectarian tensions. Shiites complain that they regularly come under attack from Sunni militant groups. Sunni politicians and members of the anti-al-Qaida in Iraq paramilitary group, the Awakening movement, complain they are targeted in politically motivated arrests by the largely Shiite national government.
The attack in Abu Sayda village came in the early evening when a parked car exploded by a three-floor building that housed shops, according to security officers. A hospital official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed the casualty figures.
The attack comes as the national government remains bogged down by disagreement over the formation of a new government more than four months after national elections.
Diyala's security forces had been on alert, after the two previous bombings in the last three days, said police Maj. Ghaleb Kharki. In one attack, a suicide bomber killed an Iranian pilgrim; in the other, an explosives-rigged parked car claimed the lives of seven people.
Authorities had received a tip that there was a plan to blow up a car in the province's capital, Baqouba. "That is why the terrorists had to target another city," Karkhi said.
Meanwhile, five U.S. governors visiting Iraq said Wednesday that conditions have improved, with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon pronouncing President Barack Obama's goal of reducing U.S. forces to 50,000 troops by Sept. 1 achievable.
Also on the trip were Govs. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Jim Douglas of Vermont. Nixon said Lt. Gen. Kenneth Hunzeker, deputy commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and the commander responsible for the draw-down, briefed them on the reduction in forces.
"It's my sense that the United States will clearly meet the goal to get down to 50,000 troops by Sept. 1," said Nixon, a Democrat. "At the same time we're doing that, the country is getting safer and there have been fewer security incidents."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.