BAQOUBA, Iraq - A suicide bomber struck a U.S.-promoted reconciliation meeting of Shiite and Sunni tribal sheiks as they were washing their hands or sipping tea Monday, killing at least 15 people, including the city's police chief, and wounding about 30 others.
Two U.S. soldiers were also wounded in the 8:30 p.m. blast at a Shiite mosque in Baqouba, a former al-Qaida in Iraq stronghold about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials, who gave the overall casualty toll.
The brazen attack, which bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq, represented a major challenge to U.S. efforts to bring together Shiites and Sunnis here in Diyala province, scene of some of the bitterest fighting in Iraq.
About two hours after the blast, U.S. soldiers at nearby Camp Warhorse fired artillery rounds at suspected insurgent positions near Baqouba. There were no reports of damage or casualties.
Witnesses and officials said the bomber struck when most of the victims were in the mosque courtyard cleaning their hands or drinking tea during Iftar, the daily meal in which Muslims break their sunrise-to-sunset fast during the holy month of Ramadan.