A suicide bomber attacked a mosque filled with Iraqi politicians and policemen on Friday and another blew himself up inside the hospital where the wounded were taken, killing a total of 21 people in Saddam Hussein’s hometown.

The twin attacks – as well as the fact that the bombers were able to infiltrate areas that were supposed to be secure – left people in Tikrit feeling under siege.

It was the third major attack in Tikrit this year, reflecting the difficulties Iraqi security forces face in protecting their own people as American forces prepare to leave by the end of the year.

The first bomber struck during midday Muslim prayers, blowing himself up inside a Sunni mosque packed with local officials, killing 16 people, including a police commander and a judge, officials said.

The mosque was inside a government-controlled compound where many officials live, and most in attendance were security or government employees.

The bodies were taken to the main hospital in Tikrit, said the province’s top medical official, Dr. Raeid Ibrahim. He said 54 people were wounded.

Hours later, as family members gathered near the emergency room on the first floor of the hospital, a suicide bomber walked in and blew himself up, said Mohammad al-Asi, the media adviser for the Salahuddin provincial governor.

Five people were killed and 16 were injured, said an official at the hospital and a security official in Tikrit. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack. Sunni insurgents often target fellow Sunnis who work with the government because they perceive them as collaborators with Iraq’s Shiite-dominated leadership. Many of the Sunni extremists view Shiites as infidels and non-Muslims.