Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of openly funding the Sunni Muslim insurgents his troops are battling in western Anbar province, in his strongest such statement since fighting started there early this year. Security forces have been fighting insurgents from the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Anbar's two main cities - Fallujah and Ramadi - since January after the arrest of a Sunni lawmaker and the clearing of an anti-government protest camp prompted a tribal revolt and allowed ISIL to set up fighting positions in the cities. Maliki's remarks play to Iraqi fears of the Sunni Arab states as he tries to burnish his standing as a defender of the mainly Shi'ite country before elections at the end of April. Violence has escalated in the last 12 months - ISIL has led a devastating campaign of suicide bombings since mid-2013 - and Maliki said in a mid-February speech that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were offering money to recruit fighters in Fallujah.
A suicide bomber driving a minibus packed with explosives killed at least 32 people and wounded 147 on Sunday in the southern Iraqi city of Hilla, police and medical sources said. The attacker approached a main checkpoint at a northern entrance to the largely Shi'ite Muslim city and detonated the minibus, a police officer said.