Bomb Kills Marines, Iraqi Tribal Leaders

By Ernesto Londoño and Josh White
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, June 27, 2008

BAGHDAD, June 26 -- Two bombings in Iraq on Thursday killed at least 40 people, among them three Marines and two interpreters who were part of a civil affairs team meeting with Sunni tribal leaders, U.S. military officials said.

Thirteen Americans, including two civilians, have been killed in Iraq since Monday, most of them during or immediately after meetings with local leaders or officials. The pattern illustrates the continuing risks that service members and diplomats face as they attempt to build up the Iraqi government.

U.S. military officials said the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq was responsible for both attacks. Since last year, many Sunnis have joined forces with the U.S. military to combat the group, which U.S. officials say they have weakened.

The Marines came under attack at approximately 11 a.m., Iraqi officials said, when a suicide bomber detonated explosives inside a building in Anbar province in western Iraq. U.S.-led coalition forces have been preparing to transfer responsibility for Anbar's security to the Iraqi government in coming days.

In a second attack Thursday, in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, a car bomb exploded within feet of the provincial governor, killing at least 18 people and wounding 80, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. The governor was not harmed.

At least 29 Americans have been reported killed in Iraq in June, up from 19 last month, according to the Web site, which tracks casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq has dropped significantly since last summer; more than 100 soldiers were killed in June 2007.

"We're having a couple of tough weeks right now," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday. "You are not going to be able to stop every one of these bombers. That's just a fact of life. But . . . I think there's no arguing with the overall security situation improvement, including in Anbar."

The Anbar bombing was in Karmah, a town just east of Fallujah. The Marines had frequently met with Sunni tribal leaders in the building where the attack occurred. At least 22 people were killed, the U.S military said, including the town's top official, Kamal al-Abdali.

Also killed was Mozhir Mohammed al-Jumaily, one of the leaders of a U.S.-backed, predominantly Sunni armed group known as the Awakening. Such groups have successfully fought Sunni insurgent groups in several parts of the country.

U.S. military officials blamed al-Qaeda in Iraq, which in recent weeks has threatened to attack Sunnis who have close ties to Americans.

Rafie Mishhen, the commander of Awakening forces in Karmah, said the bomber walked into the building without raising suspicion because he was a local resident. Mishhen said the bomber wore sweat pants and a loose jacket.

"He rushed in the door where the meeting was taking place and blew himself up," Mishhen said.

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