A suicide car bomber blasted a police checkpoint outside the courthouse in Ramadi on Wednesday, killing up to six people and wounding as many as 22 in the first such attack in months in the former Sunni insurgent stronghold.
Also Wednesday, the U.S. military reported that an American soldier and an Iraqi interpreter were killed in a bombing in east Baghdad — another sign of the lingering dangers in Iraq despite the recent downturn in violence.
The suicide bomber struck at midmorning, killing three policemen and three civilians and wounding 13, according to Col. Jubair Rashid Naief, a provincial police official. The U.S. military said four people died, including the bomber, and 22 were wounded.
Suicide bombings, ambushes and killings used to be a daily feature of life in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, until Sunni tribesmen turned against al-Qaida in Iraq and helped American forces drive the extremists from the city.
Residents said Wednesday’s attack was the biggest in the city since Sept. 13, when the leader of the Sunni revolt, Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, and two of his bodyguards were killed by a roadside bomb planted near his home.
The American soldier and Iraqi interpreter died Tuesday during a blast as their patrol was returning to base, the U.S. command said. Three Americans were also wounded, the military said.
At least 3,874 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Bomb allegedly supplied by Iran
A U.S. statement said the blast was from an “explosively formed penetrator,” a lethal type of roadside bomb that the American military believes is supplied to Shiite militias by Iran — a charge the Iranians deny.
The Iranians promised Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki last August that they would curb the flow of weapons to the extremists, Iraqi officials say. U.S. commanders have pointed to a decline in Iranian-origin weapons flowing into the country but say it’s too soon to tell whether the drop is significant.
“I think that we’re all thankful for the commitment Iran has made to reduce the flow of its weapons and explosives and training into Iraq,” said Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the U.S. commander in charge of training and equipping Iraqi forces.
Dubik told reporters Wednesday that the Iranian move had “made some contribution to a reduction of violence,” adding that “we hope over time that the same commitment that has been made stays in effect.”
Improving security situation
Nationwide, the U.S. military maintains attacks have fallen 55 percent since last summer because stepped-up American military operations have driven Sunni and Shiite extremists from most of their longtime strongholds around the city.
Nevertheless, U.S. commanders have been careful to avoid declaring victory over al-Qaida in Iraq and other extremist organizations.
“It’s certainly much better than earlier this year,” Dubik said. “But this is an enemy that is cunning, ruthless and desirous to figure out another way to re-engender violence and steal away security gains from the Iraqi people.”
Other scattered attacks were reported Wednesday around the country. The deadliest occurred when gunmen attacked a police patrol in downtown Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, police said. Four gunmen were killed, police said.
A suicide driver attacked the home of a pro-government Sunni Arab sheik about 90 miles north of Mosul, killing one civilian and wounding three, police said.
Guards opened fire as the vehicle approached, triggering the explosives away from the house and preventing greater loss of life, police said.
A police officer was also killed in a drive-by shooting in central Kut, 100 miles southeast of the Iraqi capital, police said.
In Diwaniyah, a mostly Shiite city 80 miles south of Baghdad, Iraqi police arrested 40 people in a crackdown on what police said were militias and criminal gangs. The roundup appeared part of an ongoing power struggle within the Shiite community.
Bodies unearthed in Baghdad
Iraqi security troops, meanwhile, unearthed six decomposed bodies in southern Baghdad. The bodies were buried in the backyards of residents who had fled violence in their Saydiyah neighborhood, said army Col. Jabbar Hussein.
AP Television News video showed soldiers in white surgical masks wrapping the mud-coated bodies in blankets and black plastic bags and loading them into the back of a pickup truck. It was unclear when the victims died.
In London, the British Ministry of Defense said two British soldiers were killed when their Puma helicopter crashed southeast of Baghdad. The cause of the nighttime crash was not immediately known, the British statement said.
The U.S. military reported the crash Tuesday, adding that initial reports indicated it was not due to hostile fire.