iraq bombing us soldier .
(photo credit: AP)
An explosives-laden sewage truck blew up near a police station and a car bomb struck an Iraqi army checkpoint on Tuesday - attacks that bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida and showed that extremists can still hit hard despite recent gains by US-led forces.
A US military spokesman said the terror network is on the run in some areas, but it "obviously remains very lethal."
The bombings and a series of shootings on Tuesday mainly targeted Iraqi security forces and tribal leaders facing internal rivalries but, as usual, bystanders also were struck as at least 25 people were killed or found dead nationwide.
The deadliest attack occurred when the sewage truck blew up near a gas station across the street from an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing six people - four civilians and two Iraqi soldiers - and wounding 25 other people.
It was the latest in a series of car bombings in the capital despite stringent security measures in place as part of a US-Iraqi military operations now in its ninth month and celebrations marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
In the northern city of Mosul, a suicide bomber in a sewage pump truck detonated his payload as he approached a police station recently rebuilt after four previous attacks, police said.
The blast collapsed most of the building, killing at least four policemen, including the station chief, and wounding 75 people, police said. Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed al-Waqqa said several nearby shops and cars were damaged.
Mosul, 360 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, has seen a rise in violence that many blame in part on an influx of militants who fled the Baghdad security crackdown.
Nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks, but both bombings bore the hallmarks of Sunni insurgents, particularly al-Qaida in Iraq, which had promised to step up attacks during Ramadan, which ended this weekend with the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
Gunmen also killed a Sunni tribal leader who recently turned against al-Qaida in an ambush west of Baghdad that also left his son and another relative dead, police said.
A Shi'ite tribal chieftain was killed in a drive-by shooting in the southern city of Nasiriyah, apparently the latest victim in violence between Shi'ite groups jockeying for power in the oil-rich region.
US commanders have said that the increase in troops ordered by US President George W. Bush in January - and the increased operations that followed - have left al-Qaida fractured and pushed militants into remote parts of the north and south of the country. Additional operations have been going after those pockets of fighters.
Officials have cited a drop in suicide bombings from more than 60 in January to some 30 a month since July, along with a decrease in the flow of foreign fighters across the borders. But they acknowledge they have been unable to stop the car bombings and suicide attacks usually blamed on the group and said they still face a tough fight.
"We are not ready to declare anything other than that we have done significant damage to AQI and it is on the run in many areas," Col. Steven Boylan, a spokesman for top commander Gen. David Petraeus, said referring to the network by acronym. "AQI obviously remains very lethal."
Another US military spokesman in Baghdad, Rear Adm. Greg Smith, noted that the numbers of car bombs had dropped significantly and were causing fewer casualties since the security operation began.
"We have certainly taken a great deal of the network down, a lot of leaders, facilitators, financiers," he said. "But it's clear out here we've got an enemy that's got a lot of fight left in him."
Iraqis have enjoyed periods of relative calm in the past, particularly after the killing last year of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but the group has proven resilient in finding new recruits and tactics to maintain the violence.
Smith was optimistic that recent success in turning tribal leaders and other citizens against extremists would have a long-term effect, but he cautioned it was still early to declare victory.
"The trends are in the right direction," he said. "But to call it anything other than what it is - which is a tough fight - would be irresponsible at this point."
The US military announced the arrest of several militants on both sides of the sectarian divide, including one of five extremists who were believed to be behind last week's rocket attack that killed two American soldiers at Camp Victory, the headquarters for American forces in Iraq.
The suspect was detained along with three known associates early Monday by US soldiers, who rousted them from the Agriculture Ministry in Baghdad where they were hiding, according to a statement.
"We have reason to believe that, through two intelligence-driven operations over the last few days, we now have detained all of the leadership and the key operatives of the indirect fire cell that attacked Victory Base last week," said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the deputy commander of Baghdad operations.
The statement did not identify the militants, but the Agriculture Ministry - which was closed for the holiday on Monday - is run by Shi'ites with a heavy influence by the Mahdi Army militia that is loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Separately, the military announced the capture in southern Baghdad of a suspected al-Qaida-linked militant believed to be a key leader in a car bomb network that was trying to re-establish itself after being disrupted by US-led operations. Nine other suspects also were detained in that raid and others in the Baghdad area.
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