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Bombs kill 11 at checkpoint in western Iraq

Jun. 28, 2013 - 10:18AM   |  
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BAGHDAD — Two bombs exploded near a checkpoint run by government-allied Sunni militiamen in western Iraq on Friday, killing at least 11 people in the latest strike by militants seeking to destabilize the country.

The twin blasts struck shortly before midday in the village of Zangoura, which is just south of the former insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, some 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, according to police.

The checkpoint was manned by members of the Sahwa, who are Sunni militiamen who joined forces with U.S. troops to fight al-Qaida during the Iraq War. They remain on the Shiite-led central government’s payroll for security forces, making them an occasional target for Sunni insurgents who consider them traitors.

One bomb, apparently planted by the side of the road, was the source of the initial blast. A second explosion struck as villagers rushed to help the victims of the first blast, police said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but coordinated bombings and attacks on Sahwa members are frequently the work of al-Qaida in Iraq.

Police and hospital officials said 22 people also were wounded the attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Iraq is in the midst of the deadliest and most sustained wave of violence to hit the country since 2008, raising fears the nation is returning to the widespread sectarian-charged bloodshed that pushed it to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007. More than 2,000 people have been killed in bombings and other violent attacks since the start of April.

Earlier Friday, Iraqi officials raised the death toll from a series of bombings late Thursday that targeted soccer fans watching the Confederations Cup semifinal between Spain and Italy in cafes in and around Baghdad. They put the number of those killed at 36.

The deadliest attack, which killed 20 people, took place at a large cafe in the city of Baqouba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad. The assailants staggered the blasts, apparently so that the second one — a car bomb — would kill people rushing to help those hurt in the initial explosion. Rescue teams found several bodies only on Friday morning, police said.

Other attacks late Thursday struck cafes in Baghdad and the Shiite town of Jbala south of the capital.

———

Associated Press writer Adam Schreck contributed.

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