Injured Iraqi teachers wait for treatment in Baqouba, Iraq, Tuesday after a suicide bomb attack at a school.AP photo
BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber pushing an electric heater atop a cart packed with hidden explosives attacked a high school north of Baghdad on Tuesday, leaving students and teachers bloodied and bewildered as insurgents appeared to be expanding their list of targets.
The bombing — one of two attacks near Iraqi schools on the same day — follows a wave of recent blasts blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq against funerals and social gatherings.
The trend points to the possibility that al-Qaida has shifted tactics to focus increasingly on so-called soft targets and undermine public confidence that things are looking better in the country. The backlash also coincides with a U.S.-led offensive trying to uproot insurgents from strongholds around Baghdad.
In the suicide attack, the bomber posed as a shopper or merchant transporting an electric heater on a chilly winter day.
The blast struck the front of a two-story schoolhouse in Baqouba about 8:30 a.m., half an hour after classes began. Panicked parents rushed to find out if their children were alive or dead.
A 25-year-old male bystander was killed and 21 people were wounded — 12 students, eight teachers and one policeman, according to a doctor at Baqouba General Hospital.
In the other attack, a roadside bomb exploded next to a girl’s high school in Baghdad’s western district of Amiriyah, wounding a 7-year-old boy who was passing by. But police said the target was an American patrol, not the school.
Insurgents appear to be looking for ways to bypass the heavy security cordons and patrols that cover any major event or site.
During last week’s observances of Ashoura, the most important holiday in the Shiite calendar, there were no attacks on the main procession in the holy city of Karbala, where hundreds of thousands marched. Instead, militants struck with suicide bombings and rocket fire on small gatherings of worshippers north of Baghdad, killing dozens.
In an attack at a tribal gathering near Fallujah on Sunday, the bomber was a 15-year-old boy carrying a box of candy. Women, too, are being used more in suicide bombing — four times in the past three months.