FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) – Gunmen and bombers attacked the homes of five police officers in Iraq’s western Anbar province on Monday, killing one person and wounding at least 20 people, police said.
The attacks, all in the pre-dawn hours in and around the city of Falluja, followed a suicide car bombing on Sunday at a police station in Baghdad that killed four police officers and wounded 12.
“We accuse al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is trying to get revenge against members of the police in Falluja,” Brigadier Mahmoud al-Isawi, head of the city’s police, said of Monday’s attacks. “They want to prove they are still active and they are still able to do such a thing, but we believe they are very weak.”
General Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said on Friday that U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed or captured 34 of the top 42 al Qaeda leaders in Iraq in the past 90 days, leaving the militant group struggling to regroup.
Police said bombs exploded at the homes of three police officers in central, western and southern areas of Falluja around 4 a.m., wounding ten relatives of the policemen.
In the al-Garma district about 20 km east of the city, two more policemen’s homes were bombed, wounding eight, police said. In Abu Ghraib, 25 km east of Falluja, gunmen stormed the home of a policeman, killing his brother and wounding two people.
The dead man was a member of the Sahwa, or Sons of Iraq, Sunni former militants who changed sides and fought against al Qaeda, helping turn the tide of the bloody insurgency that nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006-07.
Mainly Sunni Anbar province was the scene of some of the worst fighting in the war but has been relatively quiet since Sunni tribal leaders decided to fight the insurgents.
Overall violence has dropped significantly since the worst days of the insurgency, but insurgents have targeted police officers and government workers before and after the March 7 parliamentary election, which produced no clear winner.
Hundreds of people have been killed since the vote, won narrowly by a cross-sectarian alliance led by secularist former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, strongly backed by minority Sunnis.
No coalition won enough seats to form a majority government, and while Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs hold talks, insurgents appear to be taking advantage of the power vacuum.
Civilian deaths from bombings and other attacks were up sharply in April and May over the previous two months.