BAGHDAD, (AP) – Two suicide car bombers attacked a market and a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Ramadi, killing at least 20 people and dealing a blow to recent U.S. claims of success in reclaiming the Sunni city from insurgents.
The violence came a day after roadside bombs killed eight American soldiers, including six who died in a single blast in the surrounding province of Diyala. The mounting U.S. casualty toll highlights the dangers facing troops as they take to the streets more as part of a security crackdown in the Baghdad area.
The first attack targeted a public market about noon northwest of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, killing 10 civilians and wounding about 30, police said.
About 15 minutes later, another bomber detonated his vehicle at a nearby police checkpoint, killing five police officers and five bystanders and wounding 10 others, police said.
The U.S. military has struggled for years to secure Ramadi, the capital of the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province.
The city has shown recent signs of calming, with whole neighborhoods being walled off and military units moving off the major bases and establishing smaller U.S.-Iraqi posts in the most violent areas downtown. But the violence has continued as insurgents fight back for control.
Violence also has surged north of Baghdad, where militants have fled the security crackdown in Baghdad that began on Feb. 14.
A bombing and an ambush in Baqouba, a Sunni insurgent stronghold northeast of Baghdad, killed two soldiers and two policemen Monday as militants apparently step up a campaign against Iraqi security forces.
The attacks began about 4:30 a.m. when a booby-trapped house exploded during a raid, killing two Iraqi soldiers and wounding three. About six hours later, gunmen ambushed a police station elsewhere in the city, killing two officers and wounding two others, police said.
The bullet-riddled body of a policeman bearing signs of torture also was found outside the northern city of Kirkuk.
An al-Qaida front group claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing against an Iraqi army recruiting center in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, which killed 10 recruits and five soldiers.
The Islamic State of Iraq identified the suicide bomber as Abu Abdel-Rahman and claimed that at least 100 people killed, contrary to police reports, and it warned Iraqis not to join the army.
“We tell every father, mother, wife or brother who do not want to lose a relative to advise them not to approach the apostates and we swear to God that we will use every possible means to strike at the infidels and the renegades,” the group said in an Internet statement posted on a militant Web site. “Targeting the volunteers to the so-called Iraqi army in Abu Ghraib is the best proof to our words.”
Iraqi security forces have been the frequent targets of attacks as insurgents accuse them of collaborating with U.S.-led forces and the Iraqi government, highlighting the challenges in preparing them to take over their own security so that U.S. and other foreign troops can go home.
Underscoring the dangers, a funeral procession was held in the northern city of Samarra for the city’s police chief who was killed the day before along with 11 other officers in a bold daylight ambush suicide car bombing and shooting attack.
AP Television News footage showed tearful Iraqi police in blue uniforms carrying banners and marching as the coffin was covered with an Iraqi flag and borne through the city in a white pickup truck.
The car bomber detonated his payload as he came under fire just inside a checkpoint outside the police headquarters, military officials said. The building was not struck, but the police chief, Col. Jalil Nahi Hassoun, and 11 other policemen were killed as they fought off al-Qaida linked gunmen outside.
At least five al-Qaida fighters were killed, a U.S. military official told The Associated Press, providing new details on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authorization to release the details.
U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division came under small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire when they rushed to the scene, the military said in a separate statement. Two Americans were wounded and a vehicle was damaged.
Samarra was the scene of the Feb. 22, 2006, bombing that destroyed a major Shiite shrine and triggered the wave of Sunni-Shiite reprisal attacks that has plunged this country into civil conflict. U.S. and Iraqi officials blame that bombing on al-Qaida, which has been active in the city for years.
The deadliest attack Sunday against U.S. forces occurred in Diyala, where six U.S. soldiers and a European journalist were killed when a massive bomb destroyed their vehicle, the U.S. military said. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded, the military said. The U.S. did not identify the journalist.
Two other American soldiers died Sunday in separate bombings in Baghdad.
The military Sunday also reported three other deaths — two Marines in a blast Saturday in Anbar province and a soldier who died Sunday in a non-combat incident in northern Iraq.
On Sunday, an American general warned of more casualties to come.
“In the next 90 days we’re going to see increased American casualties because we’re taking the fight to the enemy,” Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of U.S. troops south of Baghdad, told reporters.