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Truck bomb destroys key bridge in western Iraq

A suicide bomber driving a dynamite-laden truck destroyed a key bridge on a highway used by the U.S. military, while seven Iraqis — most of them soldiers — were killed in other attacks, police said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A suicide bomber driving a dynamite-laden truck destroyed a key bridge Saturday on a highway used by the departing U.S. military, while seven Iraqis — most of them soldiers — were killed in separate attacks, police said.

There were no casualties in the Saturday morning blast that destroyed the bridge, said a police officer in the city of Ramadi, about 70 miles west of Baghdad. The highway is used heavily by the U.S. military to transport equipment out of the country. It is also a major roadway for civilian traffic.

The highway links Iraq to neighboring Syria and Jordan, where many Iraqis fled sectarian violence.

Also Saturday, an attack on an Iraqi army convoy just outside of the city of Fallujah killed four Iraqi soldiers and wounded 14, said a police officer in the city, which is about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

Both officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

A U.S. military spokesman in Iraq's western Anbar province, where both Ramadi and Fallujah are located, confirmed Saturday's explosion on the highway bridge outside Ramadi, close to two Iraqi military bases that host U.S. troops in the area.

Officer: Iraqis were the likely target
Lt. Col. Curtis L. Hill said U.S. forces have "previously used the bridge," but he would not say what impact its destruction might have on U.S. military convoys transporting equipment out of Iraq to meet President Barack Obama's deadline for a complete pullout of combat troops by August 2010.

The Anbar provincial police commander, Maj. Gen. Tariq Yousif Mohammed, told The Associated Press that he believed the blast was aimed at Iraqis. Traffic in and around Ramadi was backed up after the early morning explosion.

"I don't think the Americans were targeted by the blast. Rather it is targeting the Iraqis," he said.

Western Anbar province was once a hotbed of Iraq's Sunni-dominated insurgency and the scene of some of the most intense U.S. fighting with militants. Violence subsided significantly after local tribes decided to align themselves with U.S. forces instead of al-Qaida.

Attack have not been halted entirely. Last Sunday, 19 people were killed in a spate of coordinated car bombings across Ramadi, Anbar's provincial capital, sparking fears of a reinvigorated insurgency that could destabilize Iraq before January's crucial parliamentary elections.

Elsewhere in Iraq, violence has intensified. The northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk have recently been hit by horrific attacks targeting ethnic minorities and Iraqi security forces.

On Saturday, attackers targeted an Iraqi army patrol near Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, killing two civilians, a police official in the oil-rich city said. Two civilians were injured in the hand grenade attack, which left the soldiers unharmed, he said.

In Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, a gunman killed a policeman and three bystanders Saturday, police said.

In a brazen attack Friday, a suicide bomber, hiding with a rifle and explosives among the Sunni congregation in a mosque, sprayed gunfire at Muslim worshippers and then blew himself up, killing at least 15 people, including the imam leading prayers in the town of Tal Afar, near Mosul.

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