Four prominent Sunni tribal leaders were killed Monday when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the lobby of a Baghdad hotel where they were meeting with government officials.
The sheiks were associated with the Anbar Salvation Council, which has allied itself with the U.S. to help drive al-Qaida extremists out of Iraq's Anbar province.
At least eight other people were also killed after the bomber went through three security checkpoints, then detonated a belt packed with explosives at the Mansour Hotel, police said.
The suicide bomber entered the hotel lobby at about noon when the hotel was busy with guests and members of news media organizations that are headquartered in the highrise building. A police officer, who is based at the hotel and asked not to be identified, said the bomber walked up to the group of sheiks and detonated the explosives.
The officer identified the dead tribal leaders as former Anbar governor Fassal al-Guood, sheik of the al-Bu Nimir tribe; Sheik Abdul-Azizi al-Fahdawi of the Fahad tribe; and Sheik Tariq Saleh al-Assafi and Col. Fadil al-Nimrawi, both of the al-Bu Nimr tribe.
Gen. Aziz al-Yassiri, a Defense Ministry adviser, also was killed in the hotel attack, a ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
And three of al-Guood's guards also were killed, the police officer said.
"It was a great breach of security because there are three checkpoints, one outside and two inside," said Saif al-Rubaie, a 28-year-old hotel worker who saw the blast.
After the blast, a member of the Anbar Salvation Council said the sheiks involved in the meeting had been dropped from the council "because they did not continue working with us." He said they were meeting secretly with government officials about unspecified matters.
The U.S. command has repeatedly said the Anbar group and its opposition to al-Qaida is an example for other Iraqi tribes to follow.
A noted Iraqi poet, Rahim al-Maliki, was among the dead, said Iraqi Media Net, the government organization on whose television network al-Maliki appeared.
At least 21 people were also reported wounded at the hotel.
The attack was one of five bombings across Iraq on Monday in which at least 45 people were killed.
U.S. military officials also reported that a U.S. soldier was killed Monday in southern Baghdad, or the outskirts of the city.
From NPR and The Associated Press reports