Suicide car bomber strikes in Ramadi

A suicide car bomber blasted a police checkpoint outside the courthouse in Ramadi on Wednesday, killing up to six people and wounding as many as 22 in the first such attack in months in the former Sunni insurgent stronghold.

Iraqi security forces also found 40 decomposed bodies, including women and children, north of Ramadi near Lake Tharthar in an area controlled until recently by al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The victims had been shot and did not have ID cards with them, although it could not be determined when they were killed, an Iraqi army officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorised to release the information.

Also Wednesday, the US military reported that an American soldier and an Iraqi interpreter were killed in a bombing in east Baghdad—another sign of the lingering dangers in Iraq despite the recent downturn in violence.

The suicide bomber struck at midmorning, killing three policemen and three civilians and wounding 13, according to Colonel Jubair Rashid Naief, a provincial police official. The US military said four people died, including the bomber, and 22 were wounded.

Daily feature of life

Suicide bombings, ambushes and killings used to be a daily feature of life in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, until Sunni tribesmen turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and helped American forces drive the extremists from the city.

Residents said Wednesday’s attack was the biggest in the city since September 13 when the leader of the Sunni revolt, Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, and two of his bodyguards were killed by a roadside bomb planted near his home.

Officials said suicide bombings are often carried out by foreigners.

The New York Times carried a report on its website late on Wednesday that

quoted senior American military officials as saying that Saudi Arabia and Libya were the source of about 60% of the foreign fighters who came to Iraq in the past year to serve as suicide bombers or to facilitate other attacks.

The report said that data came largely from documents and computers discovered in September, when a US raid near the Syrian border targeted insurgents believed to be responsible for smuggling the vast majority of foreign fighters into Iraq.

A key discovery was a listing of hometowns and other details for more than 700 fighters brought into Iraq since August 2006, the newspaper said, according to the US officials who were not further identified. Saudis accounted for the largest number of fighters listed with 305, followed by Libyans with 137.
United States officials have previously offered only rough estimates of nationalities of such fighters.

The American soldier and Iraqi interpreter died on Tuesday during a blast as their patrol was returning to base, the US command said.

Three Americans were also wounded, the military said.

At least 3 874 members of the US military have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

A US statement said the blast was from an “explosively formed penetrator”, a lethal type of roadside bomb that the American military believes is supplied to Shi’ite militias by Iran—a charge the Iranians deny.

The Iranians promised Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki last August that they would curb the flow of weapons to the extremists, Iraqi officials say. US commanders have pointed to a decline in Iranian-origin weapons flowing into the country but say it’s too soon to tell whether the drop is significant.

“I think that we’re all thankful for the commitment Iran has made to reduce the flow of its weapons and explosives and training into Iraq,” said Lieutenant-General James Dubik, the US commander in charge of training and equipping Iraqi forces.

Dubik told reporters on Wednesday that the Iranian move had “made some contribution to a reduction of violence,” adding that “we hope over time that the same commitment that has been made stays in effect”.

Attacks on the wane

Nationwide, the US military maintains attacks have fallen 55% since last summer because stepped up American military operations have driven Sunni and Shi’ite extremists from most of their strongholds around the city.

Nevertheless, US commanders have been careful to avoid declaring victory over al-Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist organisations.

“It’s certainly much better than earlier this year,” Dubik said.

“But this is an enemy that is cunning, ruthless and desirous to figure out another way to re-engender violence and steal away security gains from the Iraqi people.”

Other scattered attacks were reported on Wednesday around the country.

The deadliest occurred when gunmen attacked a police patrol in downtown Muqdadiyah, about 90km north of Baghdad, police said. Four gunmen were killed, police said.

A suicide driver attacked the home of a pro-government Sunni Arab sheik about 140km north of Mosul, killing one civilian and wounding three, police said.

Guards opened fire as the vehicle approached, triggering the explosives away from the house and preventing greater loss of life, police said.

A police officer was also killed in a drive-by shooting in central Kut, 160km south-east of the Iraqi capital, police said.

In Diwaniyah, a mostly Shi’ite city 130km south of Baghdad, Iraqi police arrested 40 people in a crackdown on what police said were militias and criminal gangs. The roundup appeared part of an ongoing power struggle within the Shi’ite community.

Iraqi security troops, meanwhile, unearthed six decomposed bodies in southern Baghdad. The bodies were buried in the backyards of residents who had fled violence in their Saydiyah neighborhood, said army Colonel Jabbar Hussein.

AP Television News video showed soldiers in white surgical masks wrapping the mud-coated bodies in blankets and black plastic bags and loading them into the back of a pickup truck. It was unclear when the victims died.

In London, the British Ministry of Defense said that two British soldiers were killed when their Puma helicopter crashed south-east of Baghdad. The cause of the nighttime crash was not immediately known, the British statement said.

The US military reported the crash on Tuesday, adding that initial reports indicated it was not due to hostile fire. - Sapa-AP

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