Image: Shiite pilgrims walk toward the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine for the annual commemoration of the saint's death
Karim Kadim  /  AP
Shiite pilgrims walk toward the Imam Moussa al-Kadhim shrine for the annual commemoration of the saint's death, in the Shiite district of Kazimiyah, in Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday.
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updated 6/26/2011 2:11:39 PM ET 2011-06-26T18:11:39

A suicide bomber in a wheelchair blew himself up at the entrance to a police station north of the capital Baghdad on Sunday, killing three people and wounding 18, officials said.

Two police officers were killed and 10 injured in Tarmiyah, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Baghdad, two police officers and one medical official said.

The head of the Tarmiyah city council, Qassim Khalifa, told The Associated Press that it was not clear whether the bomber was really handicapped or using the wheelchair as a way to deflect attention from security personnel.

The bomber went to the police station claiming to need a letter from the police certifying he'd been maimed in a terror attack, Khalifa said. Iraqis who have been disabled from a bombing or shooting can receive compensation from the government if their injuries are documented.

"Police inspected him but not very carefully as he was handicapped or pretending to be handicapped, so they let him go inside the police reception area where the blast occurred," Khalifa said.

In Baghdad, security authorities were out in force to protect Shiite pilgrims converging from around the country to commemorate the death of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a revered Shiite figure. Pilgrims traditionally walk to the twin-domed shrine in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Kazimiyah, where al-Kadhim is buried.

Predominantly Sunni militants often target the pilgrims as they are walking to and from the shrine from cities and towns across Iraq. Sunday morning a sniper shot and wounded two Iraqi soldiers near the village of Wahda, a mixed Shiite-Sunni village 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of the capital, said a police and hospital official. The soldiers were manning one of the checkpoints set up to protect pilgrims as they walk to the shrine.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi court has sentenced the wife of a slain al-Qaida leader to 20 years in prison on terrorism-related charges, an Iraqi judicial spokesman said.

Hasna Ali Yahya, the Yemeni wife of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was convicted last Thursday, according to Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar.

Bayrkdar didn't give details on the charges, but a government official said she was convicted of facilitating correspondence between insurgents and preparing explosive-laden belts. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to release information.

Al-Masri's wife, a mother of three has been in custody since the April 2010 joint U.S.-Iraqi raid north of Baghdad that killed al-Masri along with another prominent al-Qaida in Iraq militant.

Six months later, Iraq's al-Qaida umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq threatened to kidnap family members of Iraqi politicians and ministers if al-Masri's wife and children were not released.

Last month, the two daughters and son were handed over to their uncle in Yemen, according to a Yemeni diplomat in Baghdad. The youngest child is 18 months old, while the others are 9 and 7, the diplomat said. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to release information.

Al-Masri, an Egyptian, joined al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan in the late 1990s and trained as a car bomb expert before traveling to Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, U.S. officials have said.

He led the terror organization after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born founder of al-Qaida in Iraq, was killed in June 2006. The group launched a bombing campaign shortly afterward to show that al-Qaida was far from eliminated.

___

Associated Press Writer Saad Abdul-Kadir contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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