BAGHDAD — A suicide car bomb exploded Thursday outside the gate of the main government compound in the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, killing at least 13 people, including four police, a health official said.
The attacker detonated his explosive-packed car at the compound housing the governor's office, police headquarters and courts in downtown Ramadi.
The province, where al-Qaida-backed Sunni insurgents once held sway, has seen a rise in attacks against security forces and government officials in recent months. The incident also comes amid fears that next month's elections will stoke political violence.
The blast also wounded at least 26 people, said Dr. Khudhair Khalaf, the director of the provincial health authority.
Debris from the car bomb could be seen strewn on the bloodstained pavement in front of the compound, along with slippers and a red-checkered traditional tribal headdress. The force of the explosion damaged two civilian cars and a police vehicle and shattered the windows of a nearby restaurant.
Anbar was the site of some of the war's most intense fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents in the key cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, though the province is comparatively peaceful now.
The government compound in Ramadi was once the scene of daily attacks during the height of the insurgency in 2005 and 2006, with the governor hunkered down in his office protected by a platoon of U.S. Marines while insurgent mortar shells rained down.
By the end of 2006, many former insurgents began to rebel against al-Qaida, and joined forces with the U.S. military, who paid fighters to participate in pro-government Awakening Councils.
The decision by the Awakening Councils to join with U.S. forces against al-Qaida is seen as one of the key reasons for the drop in violence in Iraq.
Insurgent attacks continue, however, and may even be on the rise. On Dec. 30 twin bombings in Ramadi killed 23 people and badly wounded the governor.
Associated Press Writers Chelsea J. carter and Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad contributed to this report.