/ 7 May 2007

Two suicide car bombs kill 25 near Iraq’s Ramadi

Two suicide car bombers killed 25 people and wounded dozens more near Iraq’s city of Ramadi on Monday in separate attacks that police blamed on al-Qaeda.

The attacks were the latest in a succession of big car bombings across Iraq in recent weeks that have killed hundreds despite a major United States-backed security crackdown in Baghdad and its outlying areas, including Ramadi.

Monday’s first bomb went off in a packed market at Albu-Thiyab, a town north-east of Ramadi, said Tareq al-Thiyabi, a police colonel and government security adviser in Anbar province. Ramadi is the provincial capital.

He said 13 people were killed at the market, including women and children. Nearly 20 people were wounded.

The second car bomb exploded soon after at a police checkpoint in a town called al-Jazeera, where 12 people, including five police officers, were killed, he added. More than 25 were wounded.

”They are terrorists. They are from al-Qaeda,” Thiyabi said, when asked who he thought was behind the twin blasts.

The town of al-Jazeera is home to many Sunni Arab tribal leaders who formed an alliance against Sunni Islamist al-Qaeda last year, opening up a fierce power struggle for Anbar.

The tribal chiefs oppose al-Qaeda’s campaign of indiscriminate attacks on civilians and the imposition of an austere form of Islam in the areas where the group holds sway in the vast desert region that stretches to Syria.

Russian photographer killed

The violence in Anbar came a day after eight US soldiers were killed in Iraq, including six who died along with a freelance Russian photographer in a roadside bomb attack north of Baghdad.

The Russian ambassador to Iraq named the photographer as Dmitry Chebotayev, who was in his late 20s.

”Unfortunately, information that he was killed in the blast was confirmed this morning,” the envoy, Vladimir Chamov, told Russia’s Vesti-24 television channel.

Iraq is the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. The Vienna-based International Press Institute said last month that 46 journalists were killed last year in the country, of whom 44 were Iraqis.

Recent big suicide attacks in Anbar, an overwhelmingly Sunni province west of Baghdad, have been blamed on al-Qaeda.

Tribal leaders have sought to expel al-Qaeda from Anbar, and have had some success pushing some of the al-Qaeda militants out, US military officials have said. While car bombings still plague Anbar, and especially Ramadi, violence has fallen across the province, they say.

In Washington last month, the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, hailed the tribal leaders, saying they were ”helping transform Anbar province and other areas from being assessed as lost as little as six months ago to being relatively heartening”.

Thousands of extra American soldiers are being sent to Anbar as part of the push to try to secure Baghdad.

That offensive began three months ago and is seen as a final effort to halt Iraq’s plunge into all-out sectarian civil war. — Reuters

Additional reporting by Mussab al-Khairalla and Ibon Villelabeitia in Baghdad and Tanya Ustinova in Moscow