Suicide blasts

 
Many victims of Tuesday's twin attacks in Baiji were also women and children, police officials said. 
 
The first bomb went off outside the home of Colonel Saad al-Nuffous, an Iraqi police chief.
 
The officer escaped unharmed, but his house was partially damaged, Ali al-Bijwari, a police commander, said.
 
At least 22 people were killed
in the bomb attacks in Baiji [Reuters]
 
Minutes later, a second bomber detonated his explosives outside the home of Thamer Ibrahim Atallah, a leader of the Salaheddin Awakening Council, a coalition of tribes established to fight al-Qaeda in the Tikrit area.

Atallah escaped the attack, but the identities of the other casualties were not immediately known.

US forces were deployed in the area after the blasts, al-Bijwari said.
The attacks come a day after a suicide bomber killed 14 people at a police post near Samarra, about 100km south of Baiji, also in Salaheddin province.

Car and roadside bombs on Monday killed at least 21 people across Iraq. Al-Qaeda had threatened to increase attacks during the month of Ramadan.

Fighting al-Qaeda

Last Thursday, a roadside bomb near Samarra killed Sheikh Maawia Naji Jebara, the leader of the Salaheddin Awakening Council.

An umbrella organisation of Iraqi armed groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the killing in a statement posted on the internet.

"Your brothers ... have succeeded in tracking and assassinating the leader of infidelity and apostasy who is known as Maawia Jebara," the so-called Islamic State of Iraq said.

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Sheikh Sabah Mutashar al-Shimmary,the deputy leader of the council, was wounded in the attack on Jebara's convoy. He recently said that his group was making headway against al-Qaeda fighters.

"Our forces are working in co-ordination with the ministers of defence and interior and have conducted more than 100 combat duties against al-Qaeda," al-Shimmary said.

"We arrested some Arab terrorists including one Saudi ... our troops consist of 3,000 fighters distributed across seven headquarters in the province."

The US military has said that tribal police units have sprung up in a number of provinces to target al-Qaeda fighters, spreading a model first used in al-Anbar province, but they have also become targets for suicide bombers.

Salaheddin province has a predominantly Sunni population. In February 2006, an attack on a Shia shrine in Samarra unleashed sectarian killings across the country.

'Occupying enemy'

Meanwhile, a leading Iraqi Sunni religious leader urged Iraqis not to join US forces in fighting al-Qaeda, arguing that by doing so they are siding with the enemy.

"We reject their ideas but al-Qaeda remains part of us and we are part of it. Ninety per cent of al-Qaeda members are now Iraqis"

Harith al-Dhari, head of the
Muslim Scholars' Association
"A decision to stand beside the occupying enemy in order to achieve a wish to stay in Iraq under the pretext of destroying al-Qaeda is neither accepted legally nor on patriotic or rational grounds," Harith al-Dhari, head of the Muslim Scholars' Association, said.

"We do not accept the acts of al-Qaeda," Dhari said in an interview with Al Jazeera on Tuesday.

"We reject their ideas but al-Qaeda remains part of us and we are part of it. Ninety per cent of al-Qaeda members are now Iraqis," he said.

"We can talk to them. We can reform them and God may bless them to resort to wisdom."

Dhari is currently living in exile in the Jordanian capital, Amman.