BAGHDAD – A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb Monday at a police station north of Baghdad, killing at least 12 police officers, police and health officials said.
The attack in Samarra, 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of Baghdad, comes nine days after a suicide bomber targeted Shiite pilgrims returning from a religious ceremony at the city's al-Askari mosque. Thirty-six were killed in that attack.
Monday's bombing also wounded at least 22 people, according to two police officers and hospital official.
The police battalion that came under attack had been dispatched from a southern Shiite province two weeks ago to help protect pilgrims during the ceremony, said Niyaz Oglu, a member of the area's provincial council.
Oglu accused al-Qaida in Iraq of organizing the attack.
"They are taking revenge on the security forces that have foiled their attempts to ignite sectarian violence," he said.
No group claimed responsibility for Monday's bombing, but such attacks bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida or its allied Sunni-dominated militant organizations who consider Shiites as heretics and enemies.
Samarra has been a flashpoint since a 2006 attack by al-Qaida destroyed part of the golden-domed mosque there revered by Shiites. The event sparked a vicious bloodbath between the country's Shiite majority and Sunni minority that swept through the country.
Shiite pilgrims flocked to the site earlier this month to celebrate an important religious holiday, the death of the imam for whom the mosque is named, and extra forces were brought in to beef up security in the city.
Also Monday, police and hospital officials in the northern city of Sulaimaniyah said a teenager died and 47 were wounded during overnight protests.
A Sulaimaniyah police official said that around 2,000 people took part in scattered demonstrations around the city, 160 miles (260 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, late Sunday. Many Kurds are frustrated by the tight grip with which the two ruling parties control the Kurdish autonomous region.
The official said Kurdish security forces opened fire in the air to disperse the crowd.
Hospital officials said about 20 people were shot, including a 17-year-old who later died. The others were hit by flying stones.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
The Kurdish region has been spared much of the violence that has consumed the rest of Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion, and the area attracts many foreign businesses looking to make a foothold in the country. But Kurds have become fed up by the lack of jobs and economic opportunity for people not affiliated with the two main political parties.
On Thursday, two people were killed and nearly 50 injured in a protest at the Sulaimaniyah headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Since then, demonstrators have thronged the city's streets.
Associated Press writer Yahya Barzanji contributed to this report from Sulaimaniyah.