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Two Bombings Kill At Least 26 in N. Iraq

Marchers in Baqubah protest the deaths of two men they said were Sunni volunteer fighters killed by the U.S. military. A blast at the protest killed at least four people.
Marchers in Baqubah protest the deaths of two men they said were Sunni volunteer fighters killed by the U.S. military. A blast at the protest killed at least four people. ( The Washington Post)
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Angered by the killings, a crowd of more than 60 armed men, many wearing their identification as security volunteers, began a procession to bury the bodies, he said. At one point, members of the procession were chanting: "No God but Allah. America is the enemy of Allah," he recalled.

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"We are condemning the American criminal act of killing Hadi Jasim Rasheed and Uday Hassan Hameed. . . . They are innocent," one banner read. "We are demanding the occupier to leave immediately."

As the men were carrying the coffins, the suicide car bomber attacked, several people said.

The incident could have damaging repercussions for the U.S. military if large numbers of security volunteers develop animosity toward the Americans. Both American and Iraqi officials cite the ascendance of the volunteers as a key factor in prying al-Qaeda in Iraq's grip off of Baqubah and in reducing violence across the province in recent months. Nazar Hassan said he, for one, was done helping the Americans.

"We have walked all this way with the Americans to kill al-Qaeda and to kick them out of here, and this is how they repay us?" he said. "And now, from this moment, I will stop fighting al-Qaeda. I will join al-Qaeda or any other side that will attack the American forces."

In Diyala and Salahuddin provinces, local officials demanded after the explosions that the central government provide more forces to combat insurgents.

Mahjoub, the mayor of Baiji, said his city had about 700 to 800 police officers to protect a population of 160,000. "The police force here is too small, and they are poorly supplied," he said.

In Diyala, officials said they wanted another Iraqi army division to augment the 5th Division, which is currently in the province.

"Several times we have demanded that the force we have in Baqubah is not sufficient to control all these areas," said Ibrahim Majilan, the provincial council leader in Diyala.

Despite the recent attacks -- and a brazen abduction near Baqubah on Monday -- officials in both provinces said overall security has improved in the past year.

"Six months ago it was total confusion and it has started to improve," said Aouf Rahoumi Majid, the deputy governor of Diyala province. "We think that now the al-Qaeda organization is only using car bombs and explosives, rather than direct confrontations, because most of them have now fled."

But he cautioned: "This type of battle could last for months if not years, because such a battle cannot be decisively won."

Special correspondents Saad al-Izzi, Naseer Nouri and K.I. Ibrahim in Baghdad and other Washington Post staff in Iraq contributed to this report.

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