(Reuters) – A car bomb in Iraq’s western Anbar province killed seven civilians and wounded 20 others on Monday, as Iraq struggles to end years of sectarian violence after a pivotal national vote.
The bomb exploded in a car parked about 150 meters(500 feet) from an army patrol in the city of Falluja, some 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, police said.
“The blast rocked the area and I found myself suddenly on the floor,” said 30-year-old Mohammed Abdullah, a shopkeeper who was wounded in the blast. “Once I saw the smoke and the burning car, I immediately knew it was a bomb.”
Anbar had been relatively quiet since Sunni Muslim tribal leaders in 2006 turned on Sunni Islamist groups like al Qaeda, who had once dominated the vast desert province.
Overall violence in Iraq has fallen in the last two years, but insurgents continue to strike in Anbar and other restive areas such as northern Nineveh province.
Last week’s vote is seen as a crucial test for Iraq’s young democracy, and will help decide whether the country can avoid relapse into violence as U.S. forces prepare to withdraw by the end of 2011.
(Reporting by Fadhel al-Badrani; editing by Rania El Gamal and Ralph Boulton)