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Insurgents ambush US-backed militia

Attack kills six, follows series of strikes in Iraq

By Sinan Salaheddin
Associated Press / August 27, 2010

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BAGHDAD — Insurgents killed six members of a government-allied Sunni militia in an ambush northeast of Baghdad yesterday, police said, offering no respite to a nation reeling from a spate of attacks on police and soldiers a day earlier that left at least 56 dead.

A Diyala police spokesman, Major Ghalib al-Karkhi, said the government-allied fighters, known as Awakening Councils, were driving near the town of Muqdadiyah around 1:30 a.m. when their car hit a roadside bomb.

The explosion killed four guards immediately, Karkhi said. Gunmen then attacked the two survivors, killing them, he said.

Muqdadiyah is about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

The Awakening Councils are a government-backed Sunni militia that joined forces with US troops against Al Qaeda in 2006 and helped turn the tide of the war. Since then, their fighters have become frequent targets of insurgent attacks.

The early morning ambush followed a string of attacks that struck at least 13 Iraqi cities. Fifty-six people were killed — including at least 31 policemen and soldiers — in a series of bombings and shootings across the country.

The attacks made August the deadliest month for Iraqi security forces in two years. They came after the United States declared the number of its troops had fallen to fewer than 50,000, their lowest level since the war began in 2003.

At least 265 security personnel — Iraqi military, police and police recruits, and bodyguards — have been killed from June through August, compared with 180 killed in the previous five months, according to an Associated Press count.

On Wednesday, as in earlier attacks, insurgents took aim at security forces where they are supposed to be the safest, turning police stations into rubble and bringing down concrete walls erected to protect them.

Iraq’s foreign minister said insurgents are attempting to sow as much chaos as possible, as lawmakers struggle to form a new government and Americans withdraw troops.

“Here you have a government paralysis, you have a political vacuum . . . you have the US troop withdrawal,’’ Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said. “And, in such environment, these terrorist networks flourish.’’

In August, about five Iraqi security personnel on average have been killed every day.

These numbers are considered a minimum. The actual number is probably higher, as many killings go unreported or uncounted.A senior Iraqi intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media, said it was possible some of the attackers had inside help.

The United States intends to fully withdraw troops by the end of next year.

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