Suicide blast shatters Anbar calm

Six people hurt in attack on Iraqi police checkpoint outside courthouse in Ramadi.

    Police checkpoints are a favourite target of
    armed groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq [EPA]

    The explosion mainly targeted civilians as the court was filled with visitors.
     
    Area sealed off
     
    Immediately afterwards, US and Iraqi forces sealed off the area and closed all entrances leading to Ramadi, al-Alwani said.

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    Ramadi is the provincial capital of Iraq's western Anbar province, and lies 115km west of Baghdad.
     
    The city was once a hotbed of Sunni anti-government fighters, but has seen a huge security improvement since many Sunni tribesmen began partnering with US forces last year.
     
    Wednesday's suicide blast was the largest such attack in Ramadi in months.
     
    Other scattered attacks were reported on Wednesday around the country.
     
    Deadliest attack
     
    The deadliest occurred when fighters attacked a police patrol in downtown Muqdadiya, about 90km north of Baghdad, around 7am local time, police said.
     
    The identities of the dead were unknown.
     

    The US military says attacks have fallen by
    55 per cent since its troop 'surge' [AFP]

    A police officer was also killed in a drive-by shooting in central Kut, 160km southeast of the Iraqi capital, police said.
     
    The victim was shot dead on his way to work around 10am, police said.
     
    US and British military officials were also looking into the crash late on Tuesday of a British Puma helicopter that went down southeast of Baghdad, killing two soldiers, Britain's defence ministry said.
     
    The cause of the crash was not immediately known, the ministry said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
     
    Earlier, the US military said initial reports indicated the crash was not due to hostile fire. The crash occurred near Salman Pak on the outskirts of the capital, it said.
     
    Fall in attacks
     
    On Monday, the US military said overall attacks in Iraq had fallen 55 per cent since nearly 30,000 additional American troops arrived in Iraq by June.
     
    But Major-General Mark P Hertling, the most senior US commander in northern Iraq, said that al-Qaeda cells still operate in all the key cities in the country's north.
     
    He said that despite a decline in violence in Iraq, the north had become more violent than other regions as armed groups moved there to avoid military operations elsewhere.
     
    Awakening movement
     
    Hertling said fighters have been pushed east to his area from Anbar by the so-called Awakening movement, in which local tribes supported the US-forces against al-Qaeda.
     
    Other groups have been pushed north to his area from the Baghdad region.
     
    In video

    Report on Monday's contractor shooting in Iraq

    Hertling also indicated the number of roadside bombs or "improvised explosive devices" seen in his region had decreased.
     
    Also on Monday, Iraqi soldiers arrested more than 40 people - mostly foreigners - after a civilian was shot in central Baghdad.
     
    Al Jazeera's John Cookson said a government spokesmen described the arrests as a message to security firms that they were not above the law.
     
    Foreign security firms have been under scrutiny since 17 Iraqis were killed in September in a shooting in the Iraqi capital involving the US company Blackwater.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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