Sunni Insurgents Assert Responsibility for Blast That Killed 5 U.S. Troops in Iraq

Troops load the coffin of Cpl. Jason G. Pautsch into a transfer case Sunday at Delaware's Dover Air Force Base. Pautsch was one of five troops killed Friday.
Troops load the coffin of Cpl. Jason G. Pautsch into a transfer case Sunday at Delaware's Dover Air Force Base. Pautsch was one of five troops killed Friday. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BAGHDAD, April 13 -- The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group for extremist organizations including al-Qaeda in Iraq, asserted responsibility Monday for a bombing that killed five U.S. soldiers last week in the deadliest attack on American troops in Iraq in more than a year.

The group also said it carried out a suicide bombing that killed at least eight Sunni Muslim armed guards as they were waiting outside an Iraqi army station south of Baghdad to collect their salaries.

U.S. officials say al-Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni extremist groups have lost the widespread support and financial backing they had in years past. But the recent spate of bombings that bear the trademarks of the group have raised concerns about a possible resurgence of violence as the U.S. military begins to close small outposts and prepares to once again operate almost exclusively out of large bases.

Most U.S. combat troops are scheduled to leave Iraq in the summer of 2010. All troops are expected to be out by the end of 2011.

The assertions about the recent attacks were posted Monday on online forums used by radical Islamist groups. The messages were translated by the Bethesda-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors and analyzes such messages.

The online messages asserted that the recent attacks were part of "Plan of Good Harvest," a series of attacks against U.S. forces and their supporters in Iraq. The plan was announced on online forums last month and attributed to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the supposed leader of the Islamic State of Iraq. Some counterterrorism officials say they doubt Baghdadi is a real person.

The bombing that killed five soldiers Friday was carried out by a dump truck driver who detonated a load of explosives outside an Iraqi police compound in the northern city of Mosul, al-Qaeda in Iraq's last urban stronghold in the country.

The following day a suicide bomber killed eight Sunni guards known as Sons of Iraq in Iskandariyah, a town in Babil province about 30 miles south of Baghdad.

The Sons of Iraq groups, also known as Awakening councils, were formed and financed by the U.S. military to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq. The U.S. government recently handed over control of the groups to the Iraqi government.

Also Monday, a U.S. soldier was killed by an armor-piercing roadside bomb near Karbala, a city in southern Iraq where such attacks have been rare in recent years. The U.S. military said a convoy was struck by an explosively formed projectile, or EFP, at 7:40 a.m. roughly three miles south of Karbala.

Hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq have been killed by EFPs, which the military has said in the past are imported from Iran.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government on Monday accused media outlets of fomenting sectarian tension and said it has filed a lawsuit in which it accuses two organizations of misquoting a military spokesman.

Iraq's national media office said in a statement that some reporters had been carrying out a "coordinated campaign" to exacerbate tension between the Shiite-led government and the Sons of Iraq paramilitary groups.

Several recent stories in the Western and Arab media have quoted Sons of Iraq leaders who accuse the government of paying them late and arresting members without cause.

The suit names al-Hayat, a London-based Arabic-language newspaper, and al-Sharqiya television station. The two organizations quoted a military spokesman last week as saying that the names and faces of inmates recently released by the U.S. military had been posted at checkpoints as part of an investigation into a recent spate of bombings in Baghdad. The spokesman denied having said that.

Special correspondent Zaid Sabah contributed to this report.

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