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Suicide Blast In Iraq Kills 2 Marines

The U.S. military said two American Marines have been killed in a suicide car bombing near Ramadi.

A statement says the attacker detonated an explosives-laden car at an entry control point in the vicinity of Ramadi.

The military says Tuesday's blast also wounded three other Multi-National Force - West Marines, along with two Iraqi police officers and 24 local residents.

The city west of Baghdad is the capital of the former Sunni insurgent stronghold of Anbar province. It has been relatively peaceful since local tribal leaders joined forces with the U.S. military against al Qaeda in Iraq.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. military said a Marine was killed in a roadside bombing in Iraq's southern port city of Basra. A statement said another Marine was injured in the attack on Monday. The statement released Tuesday gave no further details.

AP Television News footage from Basra on Monday showed thick smoke rising from a military vehicle burning on a highway overpass. U.S. and British forces have been active in support of Iraqi troops cracking down on Shiite militias and criminal gangs in Iraq's oil capital. The campaign has been going on for nearly a month.

In other developments:

  • Osama bin Laden's chief deputy in an audiotape Tuesday accused Shiite Iran of trying to discredit the Sunni al Qaeda terror network by spreading the conspiracy theory that Israel was behind the Sept. 11 attacks. The comments reflected al Qaeda's No. 2 leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's increasing criticism of Iran. Al-Zawahiri has accused Iran in recent messages of seeking to extend its power in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and through its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon.
  • Iraqi lawmakers are working on a draft bill to ban importing toy guns and fireworks, hoping to curb increasingly
    aggressive behavior among children who have grown up amid real war,
    a lawmaker said Tuesday. "The culture of violence has prevailed in our society and controlled the Iraqi family and that it has affected the culture of children," said Samira al-Moussawi, head of the parliamentary committee on children and women, which is preparing the
  • In Basra, a senior aide to Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani died on Tuesday, a week after being seriously injured in an assassination attempt. Two other al-Sistani representatives were injured in separate ambushes. The attacks came just days after a top aide of al-Sadr was killed in Najaf, suggesting the violence could be part of an internal Shiite power struggle.

    Meanwhile, an unmanned drone killed two gunmen in Baghdad's embattled Sadr City district, while another remote-controlled aircraft crashed south of the capital, the U.S. military said Tuesday.

    In Kuwait, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged neighboring countries to help dry up "the springs of terrorism" by preventing militants from obtaining weapons and financing from abroad. He was attending a meeting of Iraq's neighbors and other nations aimed at helping the government restore stability in Iraq.

    There has been a sharp increase in violence in the country since al-Maliki launched an offensive against Shiite militias in Basra nearly a month ago. The fighting quickly spread to Sadr City, one of the strongholds of the Mahdi Army militia of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, to which U.S. and Iraqi forces have laid siege.

    Militiamen also have responded by repeatedly shelling Baghdad's U.S.-protected Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and offices of the Iraqi government.

    Last weekend, al-Sadr, who is believed to be in Iran, threatened to declare full-scale war on the U.S.-backed government if attacks on his followers continue. And on Monday, top Sadrists warned that open warfare was a "strong possibility" if the government did not ease the pressure on the Mahdi militia.

    U.S. Apache attack helicopters and armed Predator drones have been launching daily strikes against militiamen clashing with Iraqi and U.S. troops in Sadr City, a sprawling district of 2.5 million people.

    A military statement said that a drone spotted two gunmen with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher late Monday and engaged them with a Hellfire missile. Both men were killed.

    In another firefight in Sadr City, U.S. troops were hit by a roadside bomb and then attacked with small-arms fire. Troops returned fire and killed three attackers, a statement said.

    But near Iskandariyah, a town 30 miles south of Baghdad, a Shadow reconnaissance drone crashed early Tuesday, local police said. The U.S. military said it was investigating the cause of the crash.

    Unlike the much larger Predator, the Shadow is an unarmed lightweight craft equipped with a camera capable of producing color video in daylight and thermal images at night, which it conveys back to controllers on the ground.

    April has been a bad month for the drones, which are routinely used to monitor strife-torn areas of the country. Earlier in the month, two Predators crashed in different parts of Iraq and one was lost in Afghanistan. All are believed to have suffered mechanical failure, since insurgents in both countries lack even rudimentary anti-aircraft weapons.

    In Kuwait, al-Maliki tried to persuade Arab states that his country has "passed the crisis" and is much better off than it was a year ago.

    Al-Maliki told delegates at the conference's opening Tuesday that Iraq "has entered a new phase" and has "prevailed over factional disputes."

    He urged neighboring countries "to exert more efforts to enhance security procedures on the borders in order to prevent terrorists from infiltrating into our lands."

    "We also call for drying up the springs of terrorism and its sources of finance," he said.