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Suicide attacks kill at least 48 in Iraq

Iraqi men carry an empty coffin Sunday while waiting for their relatives’ bodies outside a hospital in Mahmoudiya. A suicide bomber killed dozens from an anti-al-Qaida Sunni militia who were collecting their pay.

Associated Press

Iraqi men carry an empty coffin Sunday while waiting for their relatives’ bodies outside a hospital in Mahmoudiya. A suicide bomber killed dozens from an anti-al-Qaida Sunni militia who were collecting their pay.

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber ripped through a line of anti-al-Qaida Sunni fighters waiting to collect their paychecks near an Iraqi military base as nearly 50 people were killed in violence west of Baghdad.

The attack is the deadliest this year against the groups that turned against the terror network amid an apparent campaign by insurgents to undermine confidence in the government security forces and their allies.

The attacks on the Awakening Council members highlighted the daunting security challenges the country faces as the United States works to withdraw all combat troops in Iraq.

The first attack Sunday morning by a single bomber with an explosive vest killed at least 45 people and wounded more than 40 at a checkpoint near a military base in the mostly Sunni district of Radwaniya, southwest of Baghdad.

Some 150 Sunni fighters had lined up to collect their paychecks when the bomber struck, according to witnesses.

There were conflicting reports as to how many of the dead were Iraqi soldiers and whether accountants who were killed as they were handing out money were civilian or military.

In the second attack, a suspected militant stormed into a local Awakening Council headquarters in the far western town of Qaim near the Syrian border and opened fire on those inside.

The town and the vast desert province of Anbar, were for years the epicenter of the Sunni Arab insurgency and a sanctuary for al-Qaida.

The fighters returned fire, wounding the attacker, who then blew himself up as they gathered around him, killing three and wounding six others, police officials.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

While violence has dropped dramatically over the past two years in the country, Iraqi security forces remain a favorite target for insurgents bent on destabilizing the country and its Shiite-led government.

The attack also raised to the surface the festering resentment on the part of some Awakening Council members toward a government they said has largely marginalized them, even though their decision to fight alongside the Americans has made them targets for Sunni extremists.

The complaints take on greater urgency given Iraq's current political stalemate and the scheduled withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces by the end of August.

More than four months after March's inconclusive parliamentary election, Iraq has yet to form a new government as politicians bicker over who will lead the country. The impasse has raised fears that militants will try to exploit the political vacuum to re-ignite sectarian tensions that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007.

Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and several other members of Saddam Hussein's regime appeared in court Sunday just days after their handover from the United States to Iraqi custody.

Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim said Aziz, 74, and the other members of the deposed regime were summoned to appear in front of the court dealing with crimes from the Hussein era.

The court charged Aziz with squandering the public wealth and he will face a new trial, his lawyer, Badee Izzat Aref, said.

Aziz, who was the international face of Hussein's regime for several years, has twice been convicted by the Iraqi High Tribunal and has received prison sentences of 15 years and seven years in prison.

The U.S. military handed Aziz and dozens of other members of Hussein's inner circle to Iraqi authorities last week just days before Iraq assumed control of the last American-run prison in the country.

Suicide attacks kill at least 48 in Iraq 07/18/10 [Last modified: Sunday, July 18, 2010 11:53pm]
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