updated 6/27/2008 9:53:09 AM ET 2008-06-27T13:53:09

A senior Iraqi judge was assassinated by drive-by shooters while traveling in eastern Baghdad, Iraq's Higher Judicial Council said Friday.

Judge Kamil al-Showaili was driving home Thursday when the attack occurred, the council said. He was the head of one of Baghdad’s two appeals courts.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military on Friday postponed a ceremony to hand over Anbar province to Iraqi security control, citing forecasts of sandstorms. The announcement came a day after a suicide attack in the western province killed more than 20 people, including three U.S. Marines.

A U.S. statement said high winds and sandstorms were expected to sweep Anbar on Saturday, when the ceremony was to have taken place. That would prevent U.S. and Iraqi officials from flying to the venue.

“A new date will be announced as soon as it is made available,” the statement said.

Battleground province
Anbar was the main battleground in the Sunni-led insurgency until Sunni tribes there turned against al-Qaida in Iraq starting in 2006. The tribes now work with the U.S. military to prevent al-Qaida from returning to power in the province.

Lt. Col. Chris Hughes, spokesman for U.S. forces in Anbar, said the U.S. had been planning to delay the ceremony based on weather forecasts before Thursday’s attack, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a meeting of U.S.-backed tribal sheiks in Karmah.

Two Iraqi interpreters were also killed, along with the chief administrator of the town and several top-ranking Anbar tribal leaders.

Iraqis to gain control of 10th province
Anbar, which extends from the western outskirts of Baghdad to the borders of Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia, will be the 10th of Iraq’s 18 provinces to return to Iraqi security control. The other nine provinces are dominated by Shiites or Kurds.

Although Anbar is far quieter than in previous years, the Karmah attack shows that extremists, including al-Qaida in Iraq, remain a threat, albeit at a diminished level.

At least 18 other people were killed Tuesday in a car bombing in the northern city of Mosul. Both attacks happened in Sunni Arab areas where al-Qaida in Iraq has been active and appeared to be part of a campaign by extremists to undermine U.S. efforts to shore up local administrations and secure the security gains achieved since early last year.

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