The U.S. military said Sunday a roadside bomb killed four Marines in western Anbar province — the deadliest attack in that area in months.
The Marines were killed Friday, but no other details of the incident were released.
Anbar was once a stronghold for insurgents battling against U.S. forces. But in the past year the vast desert province has largely been calmed with the rise of the Awakening Council movement — Sunni fighters who now turn their guns on al-Qaida instead of U.S. forces.
Thursday’s attack was the most lethal in Anbar since Sept. 6, when four Marines were killed in combat. The military did not release details of those deaths.
On April 22, two Marines were killed in Anbar when a bomb-rigged truck exploded at a checkpoint in the city of Ramadi.
Commanders say the security situation in the province has greatly improved since fierce fighting in the city of Fallujah in 2004 came to symbolize Sunni resistance to the U.S. presence in Iraq.
Sadr City violenceIraq's first lady escaped unharmed Sunday from a bomb attack in downtown Baghdad that struck her motorcade, injuring four bodyguards.
President Jalal Talabani's wife, Hiro Ibrahim Ahmed, was headed to the city's central National Theater to attend a cultural festival when her motorcade was hit in the Karrada district, according to the president's office. It was unclear whether she was the target or the attack was a random bombing.
In fighting Sunday, U.S. troops killed 18 Shiite extremists in unrelenting street battles in the capital's Shiite militia strongholds of Sadr City, Shula and New Baghdad.
Iraqi health officials said at least 10 people — including two children — were killed in 24 hours of fighting in Sadr City, a slum of 2.5 million people and a stronghold for the Shiite Mahdi Army militia of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is believed to be living in Iran. It was unclear whether any Shiite extremists were included in the figure because health authorities did not provide a breakdown.
Outside the city, U.S. troops on Sunday killed nine al-Qaida insurgents, including three who were wearing suicide vests, in a clash near Lake Thar Thar in the predominantly Sunni Salahuddin province northwest of Baghdad, the military said. Two other al-Qaida insurgents were killed in Samarra north of Baghdad on Saturday, it said.
In addition, the U.S. military reported Sunday that 11 al-Qaida insurgents were killed over the weekend in central and northern Iraq, after a powerful roadside bomb killed four Marines on Friday in the deadliest attack in months in the former al-Qaida stronghold of western Anbar province.
The clashes with the Mahdi Army have brought deep rifts among Iraq’s Shiite majority and have pulled U.S. troops into difficult urban combat.
Militia members have been blamed for firing hundreds of rockets or mortars from Sadr City into the Green Zone, the U.S.-protected area housing the American embassy and much of the Iraqi government.
In the past month, more than a dozen people — including two American civilians and soldiers — have been killed inside the zone during the attacks.