Truck bomb kills 2 Marines

Sunni militants in Iraq blamed for multiple attacks

April 23, 2008|By Ned Parker | Ned Parker,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD -- Sunni militants launched deadly attacks around Iraq yesterday as a suicide truck bomb killed two U.S. Marines and 10 Iraqis in Anbar province, a female bomber struck a police station in eastern Iraq and a car bomb exploded in Baghdad near a well-known restaurant.

Confrontations once more jolted Sadr City, the capital's Shiite slum, where the U.S. military said its forces fired a Hellfire missile that hit a car carrying militants and rockets. Police said the strike killed eight civilians, but the Americans said no civilians were in the area.

The military announced that an airstrike yesterday morning had killed another fighter who was planting bomb wire.

The deaths came amid an upswing in bloodshed that began last month when the Iraqi government ordered an offensive in the southern city of Basra. That assault sparked continued fighting with Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.

Iraqi officials have warned of greater violence in the months ahead as factions seek to gain advantage, with an eye to the drawdown of American troops and the U.S. elections in the fall.

The two Marines died when the truck bomb sped into a checkpoint yesterday near Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, according to the U.S. military, witnesses and Iraqi security officials.

Seven policemen and three civilians died in the attack, said Dr. Dia Hittit of Ramadi's general hospital. Thirty Iraqis and two other Marines, were wounded, according to Hittit and the military.

"I heard the explosion blast to the point that I thought it was in my car," said Omar Khalil, a taxi driver. "Moments later I saw a truck in flames at a joint Iraqi-American checkpoint."

Ramadi, once a bastion of al-Qaida in Iraq, has become relatively calm in the past year as tribes have teamed up with U.S. forces, their one-time enemies, to battle militants.

But Sunni insurgents recently have showed new signs of life. Last week, 13 people were killed in the western city when a bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up near policemen eating lunch.

The U.S. Marines also announced yesterday that a Marine was killed and another wounded the day before when a roadside bomb exploded in Basra. The military reported Monday that a bomb had struck an American military vehicle and caused casualties, but it provided no other information.

U.S. and British forces are backing Iraqi troops to secure Basra, which had fallen under the control of various militia groups. However, the campaign has turned into a fight mainly against al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. The cleric threatened open war Saturday against the Iraqi government if Iraqi troops do not halt their current operations. Pro-Sadr politicians have endorsed his stance and were awaiting his orders.

In Baghdad, a car carrying a bomb raced into an Iraqi army checkpoint yesterday in western Baghdad's Mansour district near the noted Saa restaurant. One Iraqi soldier and two civilians were killed and 20 others wounded in the attack, police said. Al-Qaida in Iraq supporters are thought to live in the area.

Usama Hamid was driving his family home when the bomber struck. "Suddenly this ball of fire erupted and seared the skin of my face," he said.

Iraqi soldiers and police started firing wildly, and random shooting broke out down the street, he said.

"My son, who is in his fifth year of elementary school, was shouting that we were going to die. ... My daughter was crying and trembling from the shock, and the color had drained from my wife's face," Hamid said.

In other violence, a female bomber detonated her explosives late yesterday at a police station in Jalawlaa in Diyala province, killing five policemen and a Kurdish security official, a police officer said on condition of anonymity. The attack, in an area contested by Kurds and Arabs, followed a similar bombing by a woman Monday that killed four people in the province's capital, Baqouba.

A car bomb also exploded in Mosul in northern Iraq, killing one and wounding 10, police said. Mosul is considered the last urban haven for al-Qaida in Iraq, where it has benefited from tensions between Nineveh province's Kurds and Arabs.

Ned Parker writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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