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18 die in attack on Al Qaeda foes

Suicide bomber hits meeting of Iraqi chiefs

A US soldier manned a machine gun on a Black Hawk helicopter as it flew over Baghdad yesterday. Iraqi police foiled a suicide bombing by a woman in the city, but officials said at least 90 bodies if Iraqis were found across the country during the day. (ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

BAGHDAD -- A suicide car bomber struck a group of tribal chiefs who opposed Al Qaeda, killing at least 18 in a market area near Fallujah yesterday. The attack underscored the difficulties facing Sunni leaders in trying to wrest control of Anbar province from the terror network.

Much of the al-Buissa tribe has formed an alliance against Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has alienated more moderate Sunnis with its brutality and dependence on foreign fighters. The US military has touted the alliance, the Anbar Salvation Council, as a success in its efforts to stabilize the country.

The bomb exploded in a pickup truck next to where the elders were trying to solve a tribal dispute in Amiriyah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, police said. The driver of the pickup had gained access to the market area by saying he needed to buy some watermelons, said Ahmed al-Issawi, 40, an owner of a food store there.

"We told him not to stay long in the market," al-Issawi said. "Then, he drove very fast toward the sheiks and exploded the pickup. There was a hot storm that sent several stalls and bodies into the air."

Al-Issawi said he and other shop owners tried to extinguish some burning bodies.

At least 18 people were killed and 15 were wounded, according to US Marine Major Jeff Pool, a military spokesman for the area.

As the mourners later buried the dead in the cemetery of the town on the outskirts of Fallujah, four mortar shells landed in the cemetery, police said. No casualties were reported in that attack.

An al-Buissa tribal chieftain, Abbas Mohammed, said the violence would not deter the local leaders from their fight against Al Qaeda.

"We expected such attacks after we cleaned our area of Al Qaeda members," Mohammed said. "Despite these attacks, we will go on in chasing Al Qaeda elements."

Elsewhere in Anbar, General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, and Iraq's Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani attended the opening ceremony of the Anbar Iraqi Police Academy in Fallujah, which was the site of fierce clashes between Americans and insurgents in 2004. The initial class of 550 recruits from Anbar will graduate Aug. 19, the military said.

Alert guards foiled a suicide attack in eastern Baghdad yesterday, gunning down a black-clad female bomber as she approached a group of police recruits and causing her explosives to detonate, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf.

"She didn't obey the guards' orders to stop and they shot her and she immediately blew up," Khalaf said.

The woman was dead at the scene. A police officer witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said three police recruits were slightly wounded.

In all, at least 90 Iraqis were killed or found dead yesterday. They included 61 bullet-riddled bodies, more than half found in Baghdad and most showing signs of torture -- the apparent victims of so-called sectarian death squads. A US soldier also was killed by small-arms fire in southern Baghdad, the military said.

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