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Bombing attacks in Iraq leave 22 dead

Times Staff Writer

Sunni militants on Tuesday launched deadly attacks around Iraq, where 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 this capital city near a well-known restaurant.

Confrontations once more jolted Sadr City, the Shiite Muslim district in Baghdad 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 reported that another airstrike Tuesday morning had killed a 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 fighting with Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia.

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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 bomber sped into a checkpoint near Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, the U.S. military, witnesses and Iraqi security officials said.

Seven police officers and three civilians died in the attack, said Dr. Dia Hittit of Ramadi’s general hospital. Thirty Iraqis and two Marines were wounded, Hittit and the military said.

“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 the Sunni insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq, has become relatively calm in the last year as tribes have teamed up with U.S. forces, their onetime 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 police officers eating lunch.

The U.S. Marines also reported that a Marine was killed and another wounded Monday by a roadside bomb in Basra. The military said Monday that a bomb had struck an American military vehicle and caused casualties, but provided no other information.

At least 4,045 U.S. military personnel have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, according to icasualties.org, an independent website that tracks casualties.

U.S. and British forces are backing Iraqi troops to secure Basra, which had fallen under the control of various militias. However, the campaign has turned into a fight mainly against the Mahdi Army.

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Sadr threatened open war Saturday against the government if it does not halt its military offensive. Pro-Sadr politicians have endorsed his stance and are awaiting his orders.

In Baghdad, a car bomber raced into an Iraqi army checkpoint in the western district of Mansour near the Saa restaurant.

A soldier and two civilians were killed and 20 were wounded, police said. Al Qaeda 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.

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Iraqi soldiers and police officers started firing wildly and 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 Tuesday at a police station in Jalawla in Diyala province, killing five officers and a Kurdish security official, a police officer said, speaking 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, Baqubah.

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A car bomb exploded in the northern city of Mosul, killing one person and wounding 10, police said. Mosul is considered the last urban haven for Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has benefited from tensions between Nineveh province’s Kurds and Arabs.

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ned.parker@latimes.com

Times staff writers Said Rifai, Saif Hameed and Raheem Salman contributed to this report.

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