BAGHDAD — Three U.S. Marines and two interpreters were among scores of people killed Thursday in two bombings in predominantly Sunni provinces in Iraq, the U.S. military said.
U.S. officials have confirmed the deaths of 13 Americans killed in Iraq this week. Nine of them were attacked while attending meetings with Iraqis. The Marines were killed after a bomb exploded inside a building where they were meeting with local leaders in Anbar province, in western Iraq.
The attack comes as U.S. officials prepare to hand over responsibility for security in the province to Iraqi officials. "The attack bears the hallmarks of having been carried out by al-Qaida in Iraq," the U.S. military said in a statement, referring to the Sunni insurgent group.
The bombing happened in Karmah, a town just outside of Fallujah in Anbar province. U.S. officials were meeting with sheiks, or local leaders, when a suicide bomber detonated a vest packed with explosives. At least 23 people were killed.
The blast took place only days before U.S. troops are to hand over security responsibility for Anbar to the Iraqis, marking a major milestone in the campaign to lower the U.S. profile in an area that had once been center-stage of the war. Anbar sheiks spearheaded the Sunni revolt against al-Qaida, one of the key reasons behind the big drop in both overall violence and U.S. deaths since 2006.
In Mosul, in northern Iraq, a car bomb killed at least 18 people during an attack that may have targeted the governor of Nineveh province. The attack, which killed one police officer and injured at least 71 people, comes two days after a bombing in the city wounded about 90 people.
Iraqi and U.S. forces launched a military operation in Mosul in May in an effort to crack down on al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgent groups.