- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 18, 2009

BAGHDAD | A suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden truck destroyed a key bridge Saturday on a highway used by the departing U.S. military, while separate attacks killed nine Iraqis, most of them security force members, police said.

There were no casualties in the blast that destroyed the bridge outside the city of Ramadi, which is about 70 miles west of Baghdad, said a local police officer. The highway is used heavily by the U.S. military to transport equipment out of the country. It is also a major roadway for civilian traffic.

The highway links Iraq to neighboring Syria and Jordan, where many Iraqis fled to escape sectarian violence.

Also Saturday, an attack on an Iraqi army convoy just outside of the city of Fallujah killed four Iraqi soldiers and wounded 14, said a police officer in the city, which is about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

A U.S. military spokesman in Iraq’s western Anbar province, where both Ramadi and Fallujah are located, confirmed Saturday’s explosion on the highway bridge, which was close to two Iraqi military bases that host U.S. troops in the area.

Lt. Col. Curtis L. Hill said U.S. forces have “previously used the bridge,” but he would not say what impact its destruction might have on U.S. military convoys transporting equipment out of Iraq to meet President Obama’s deadline for a complete pullout of combat troops by August 2010.

The Anbar provincial police commander, Maj. Gen. Tariq Yousif Mohammed, said he believed the blast was aimed at Iraqis. Traffic in and around Ramadi was backed up after the early morning explosion.

“I don’t think the Americans were targeted by the blast,” he said.

Western Anbar province was once a hotbed of Iraq’s Sunni-dominated insurgency and the scene of some of the most intense U.S. fighting with militants. Violence subsided significantly after local tribes decided to align themselves with U.S. forces instead of al Qaeda.

Attacks have not been halted entirely. Last Sunday, 19 people were killed in a spate of coordinated car bombings across Ramadi, Anbar’s provincial capital, sparking fears of a reinvigorated insurgency that could destabilize Iraq before January’s crucial parliamentary elections.

Elsewhere in Iraq, violence has intensified. The northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk have recently been hit by horrific attacks targeting ethnic minorities and Iraqi security forces.

On Saturday, attackers threw hand grenades at an Iraqi army patrol near Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding two others, a police official in the oil-rich city said.

In Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, 2 policemen and one civilian were killed Saturday in three unrelated incidents, police said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

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