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Iraq official: Three suicide bombers at large in Anbar province

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — U.S. planes bombarded al Qaeda in Iraq safe havens on the southern outskirts of Baghdad on Sunday, hours after a suicide bomber carrying explosives in a candy box killed six people in Anbar province.

An hour after the suicide attack, members of the Awakening Council arrested a woman wearing an explosives-laden belt after receiving intelligence indicating five suicide bombers had entered the area, an Interior Ministry official said.

They were still searching for three other suicide bombers, he added.

The suicide bomber handed the explosive-laden box to Sheikh Hadi at a celebration attended by members of the Anbar Awakening Council, who were celebrating his recent release from U.S. custody, the Interior Ministry official said.

Two guards also were killed, according to the official.

The suicide bomber was a relative of Hadi, the Interior Ministry official told CNN. The bomber’s target was Sheikh Aeifan al-Issawi and other members of the Anbar Awakening Council, the official said. Al-Issawi was unhurt.

Hadi had been in U.S. custody for about five days, al-Issawi said. Al Qaeda in Iraq had planted a bomb near Hadi’s house and made it appear that the sheikh was dealing with insurgents, said al-Issawi, the leading member of the Council.

Sunday’s U.S. airstrike against al Qaeda in Iraq is part of a new countrywide push against insurgents, the U.S. military said.

The strike, in the Arab Jabour area, followed two others — one last Wednesday and one on January 10 — in the same region, the military said.

The three strikes used more than 80,000 pounds of bombs to hit a combined total of 64 targets, the military said in a written statement.

Intelligence, some from a group called Concerned Local Citizens, helped the military identify the targets, Brig. Gen. Jim Huggins told CNN. Concerned Local Citizens was started by the U.S. military to assist U.S. and Iraqi forces in security tasks, such as manning checkpoints.

A military official told CNN last week that the area targeted is a mostly agricultural area, six to nine miles (10 to 15 kilometers) south of Arab Jabour, and is one of the last insurgent safe havens in the area.

The purpose of operation Marne Thunderbolt is to establish patrol bases in and amongst the Iraqi people in the southern Arab Jabour area, so then we can go about bringing better stability and better services into their area, Huggins said.

The Sunni-dominated province is where the U.S. military reports increased indigenous tribal support against al Qaeda in Iraq. However on Sunday, Rear Adm. Gregory Smith noted that al Qaeda has not entirely left the province.

Awakening councils, which are usually Sunni groups standing against al Qaeda in Iraq fighters, have been targeted in a spate of attacks in recent weeks.

In other violence across Iraq at least one Iraqi civilian was killed and three police officers were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi police convoy in eastern Baghdad Sunday morning, according to an Iraqi Interior Ministry official.

Other developments

The number of weapons coming from Iran into Iraq has dropped significantly, a U.S. military spokesman said Sunday. The news comes despite a sharp increase in early January in attacks with explosively-formed penetrators believed to be linked to Iran. We do believe that the number of signature weapons that have come from Iran … are down dramatically, except for this short uptick of explosively formed penetrators in the early part of January, Rear Admiral Gregory Smith said Sunday.
Iraq official: Three suicide bombers at large in Anbar province – found here.

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January 21, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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