- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2007

12:07 p.m.

BAGHDAD (AP) — Two suicide car bombers attacked a market and a police checkpoint on the outskirts of Ramadi today, killing at least 20 people and dealing a blow to recent U.S. success in reclaiming the Sunni city from insurgents.

A mortar attack also killed five people and wounded two others in Baiyaa, a religiously mixed neighborhood in western Baghdad that has seen a recent rise in sectarian tension. Four Iraqi troops were killed in separate attacks in Baqouba, northeast of the capital.

The violence came a day after roadside bombs killed eight American soldiers, including six who died in a single blast in the surrounding province of Diyala. The mounting U.S. casualty toll highlights the dangers facing troops as they take to the streets more as part of a security crackdown in the Baghdad area.

The first attack targeted a public market about noon northwest of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, killing 10 civilians and wounding about 30, police said.

About 15 minutes later, another bomber detonated his vehicle at a nearby police checkpoint, killing five police officers and five bystanders and wounding 10 others, police said.

The U.S. military has struggled for years to secure Ramadi, the capital of the insurgent stronghold of Anbar province.

The city has shown recent signs of calming, especially as Sunni tribes have allied against al Qaeda, and military units have moved off the major bases and established smaller U.S.-Iraqi posts in the most violent areas downtown. But insurgents are fighting back for control.

“They committed this crime because we have identified their hideouts and we are chasing them,” Sheik Jabbar Naif al-Dulaimi, a police officer and a member of the alliance known as the Anbar Salvation Council.

Violence also has surged north of Baghdad, where militants have fled the security crackdown in Baghdad that began on Feb. 14.

The attacks in Baqouba, a Sunni insurgent stronghold northeast of Baghdad, began before dawn when a booby-trapped house exploded during a raid, killing two Iraqi soldiers and wounding three. About six hours later, gunmen ambushed a police station elsewhere in the city, killing two officers and wounding two others, police said.

The bullet-riddled body of a policeman bearing signs of torture also was found outside the northern city of Kirkuk.

Insurgents accuse Iraqi security forces and police of collaborating with U.S.-led forces and the Iraqi government, highlighting the challenges in preparing them to take over their own security so that U.S. and other foreign troops can go home.

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