BAGHDAD (AFP) - A suicide truck bomber killed nine people at a police headquarters on Monday as data showed March was Iraq’s deadliest month since August, raising fears of a surge in violence leading up to elections.

The latest attack, in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, comes as Iraq marks 10 years since the US-led invasion of the country that intended to oust Saddam and install a stable, democratic ally in the Middle East but instead unleashed brutal violence and endless political disputes.

The attacker detonated the tanker truck at a police headquarters in Tikrit, 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad, killing nine people and wounding 28, according to Mohammed Hassan Attiya, the head of the security committee within the provincial council of Salaheddin, of which Tikrit is the capital.

Among the victims were eight policemen who died and 25 who were wounded, Attiya said. Also north of the capital, separate attacks in Mosul, Tuz Khurmatu and near Tikrit left a policeman dead, a town mayor and his two bodyguards wounded, and a tribal chief kidnapped and his bodyguard wounded, officials said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the Tikrit attack, but militants linked to Al-Qaeda often use suicide bombers and vehicles packed with explosives to target security forces and officials in a bid to destabilise the country.

The bombing comes ahead of provincial elections scheduled for April 20, due to be held in 12 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, the country’s first polls since a parliamentary vote in March 2010.

“Because we are approaching elections, which are a key event in the country, this is pushing terrorist groups ... to carry out maximum damage against internal security,” a senior security official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They are aiming to hinder the elections.” John Drake, a London-based security analyst for AKE Group, warned that insurgent groups may be trying to “instil the electorate into voting along sectarian lines, further dividing society, which in turn harms the government’s efforts to consolidate voters.”

Questions have been raised about the credibility of the polls as they have been postponed in two provinces roiled by months of protests, and 11 candidates have been killed, according to an AFP tally. Officials cited security threats to candidates and election officials in justifying the delay in Anbar and Nineveh province, but diplomats have voiced concern over the move.

Meanwhile, Iraq on Monday executed Al-Qaeda’s former Baghdad chief and three other men convicted of terror-related offences, despite calls for a moratorium its use of the death penalty. The executions brought to 22 the number of times Iraq has carried out the death penalty so far this year, compared with 129 in 2012, which was among the highest such figures in the world.