Mosul, Iraq - A suicide car bomber killed at least eight people at a military checkpoint in the Iraqi city of Mosul on Monday, police and hospital sources said, as sectarian and ethnic tensions build ahead of elections in April.

The bomber, who struck in Mosul, 390km north of Baghdad, also wounded eight people, including six soldiers.

“The blast destroyed everything. It looks like there was nothing here before the explosion,” said a policeman at the scene who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Ongoing violence following the withdrawal of United States troops in late 2011 is stoking fears of a return to the sectarian strife that killed tens of thousands of Iraqis in 2006 and 2007.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'a Muslim, is facing mass protests by disenchanted Sunnis and is at loggerheads with ethnic Kurds who run their northern region autonomously from Baghdad.

The prospect of provincial elections is hardening the divisions as political leaders appeal to their constituencies with often hostile and uncompromising rhetoric. - Reuters