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Suicide Attacks Kill 144; 8 U.S. Troops Die in Iraq
"This is a catastrophe that has befallen the whole town, not just my family," Hussein said.
As of late Saturday, no group had asserted responsibility for the bombing. The vast majority of the victims were Shiite, and Armili is the birthplace of two prominent Shiite politicians, Abbas al-Bayati and Muhammad Mahdi al-Bayati. In recent months, insurgents linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni Arab extremist groups have targeted Shiite areas across Iraq with suicide bombings.
Tuz Khormato and other areas around Kirkuk have also become flash points as Arabs and Turkmens clash with the Kurds over the future of Kirkuk. Through a provision in the Iraqi constitution, Kurds are seeking to make this region part of an autonomous Kurdistan.
Late Friday, a suicide bomber detonated a car filled with explosives near a funeral in Zargosh, a remote Shiite Kurdish and Turkmen village nestled along the Iranian border in volatile Diyala province, 75 miles northeast of Baghdad. The blast killed 23 and wounded 18, according to police officials.
For the past three weeks, U.S. forces have waged an intense campaign in and around Baqubah, the capital of Diyala province, to weed out al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni insurgents. In recent months, the extremists have gained control of the area and staged attacks from there into Baghdad. U.S. military commanders have said that many insurgents fled Baqubah just before the current offensive began. Armili is about 60 miles northeast of Baqubah.
The back-to-back attacks underscored the reality U.S. military commanders face. Even as thousands of troops have been dispatched to Baghdad and Diyala, there are not enough to secure the whole country, leaving wide swaths of vulnerable targets.
While the capital has seen a drop in major suicide bombings in the past few weeks, lower-level violence has persisted.
A few hours after the attack in Armili on Saturday, a suicide car bomb exploded in the Zayuna neighborhood of eastern Baghdad near an Iraqi army patrol, killing at least six people and wounding 20, police said.
Roadside bombs killed five U.S. soldiers in different parts of Baghdad on Friday and one soldier Thursday, the military reported Saturday. Two Marines were killed in combat Thursday in Anbar province.
A British soldier was also reported killed in fighting in southern Iraq.
On Saturday, at Forward Operating Base Falcon, dozens of soldiers gathered in a small stucco chapel to remember Spec. James L. Adair, 26, who was killed in a powerful roadside bombing June 29 while patrolling the Hay al Jihad neighborhood of southwestern Baghdad.
The soldiers sat in rough-hewn wooden pews, their weapons on the floor by their feet. A framed photo of Adair sat on a small pedestal at the front of the room, next to a rifle, a helmet and boots.
"There's nothing I or anyone else can say to make this loss easy," the battalion commander, Capt. Brian Ducote, said about Adair. "He was a good soldier. He was a loyal friend, and he was our brother."
Adair, of Carthage, Tex., joined the Army in September 2005, served at Fort Riley, Kan., and deployed to Iraq in February, the vanguard of a wave of about 30,000 additional soldiers to in and around Baghdad. His wife, Chelsea, is expecting their first child in September, the soldiers said.
"He was an American willing to step forward and engage our nation's enemies," said Lt. Col. Patrick Frank, commander of the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division. He was a soldier, Frank said, "with a personality as big as his native state of Texas."
After taps and the gunfire salute, two by two the soldiers approached Adair's photograph, saluted and left the chapel.
A special correspondent in Kirkuk, correspondent Joshua Partlow and special correspondent K.I. Ibrahim in Baghdad, and other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.