Iraq bombing targets sheik

The Baltimore Sun

BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint near a planned meeting site of tribal leaders yesterday in a village north of the capital, killing at least three people and wounding 13, the U.S. military said.

Local police said at least five people were killed in the attack, mostly young men who had volunteered to defend the area as part of the Taji Tribes Awakening Council, a partnership formed in recent months between tribal leaders and U.S. and Iraqi security forces.

Two men detonated a truck about 11 a.m. at the checkpoint in Jurf al-Mileh, 12 miles north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

The military said the men were attempting to kill a tribal sheik. Witnesses said the truck was loaded with a half-ton of explosives.

Kareem Zobaiee, 28, who lives nearby, said he saw victims at the checkpoint, many with limbs torn off by the explosion.

The council, led by Sheik Nair Tamim, meets every few days in members' homes, setting up checkpoints of plainclothes volunteers, said a council member. Maj. Randall Baucom said the council, similar to those formed in western Anbar province and Abu Ghraib, gathered to oppose Sunni insurgent groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq. He said the bombing came on the heels of a meeting in the village Saturday that was attended by U.S. forces, tribal sheiks and Shiite leaders.

"There are definitely discussions going on that they would like to reconcile with the coalition and the Iraqi government," Baucom said.

Word has spread among local Sunni tribes that the council is spying for the Americans who arm them. Baucom said U.S. and Iraqi forces are not arming the councils, "but we're not disarming them either."

He said yesterday's bombing, and other recent attacks on Sunni sheiks who have formed partnerships with U.S. forces, "only furthers their resolve to quickly reconcile with the government and the coalition to get rid of this violence in their areas."

Nasir al-Ani, a member of the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, said it will take time for residents in Sunni militant strongholds to challenge insurgents' authority. But Rasheed Azzawi, a member of the same bloc, said Sunni auxiliary police groups are springing up in southern Baghdad and south of the city as families lose children to militant attacks.

"When people start to lose their sons and their relatives they want to defend themselves," Azzawi said. "A lot of Iraqi people's sons were killed by these groups. By doing this, they are isolating themselves more and more from the Iraqi people."

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said yesterday that the national leadership intends to make progress toward meeting Washington's benchmarks for Iraq by September.

During an appearance on CNN's Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer, Salih said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has urged parliament to forgo its August recess, is trying to make progress on a de-Baathification law and on legislation to give Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds an equitable share of the nation's oil wealth.

In Baghdad, a roadside bomb in the eastern neighborhood of Sauna killed one person and injured five yesterday. A bomb planted in a motorcycle exploded in the Shoran market, killing two people and wounding 20, according to hospital workers. A mortar attack killed one person and injured two yesterday in Bab al-Shari.

Gunmen killed a guard in a drive-by shooting at the Shiite Dawa party office in Baghdad.

Police Capt. Ahmed Saadi, an investigating officer in the southern Bayaa neighborhood, was assassinated by gunmen.

Molly Hennessy-Fiske writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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