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Suicide Blasts Target Sunni Allies In Iraq

A female suicide bomber attacked the offices of an anti-al Qaeda group that has joined forces with the U.S., killing 12 people Friday in one of Iraq's most violent provinces, police and the U.S. military said.

A second attack at a checkpoint manned by Iraqi soldiers and another of the U.S-backed groups killed 10 people, an Iraqi army officer said.

The attacks - about 10 miles apart - highlighted the dangers for the U.S.-backed groups, which often include former insurgents who have turned against al Qaeda in Iraq. The groups are credited with helping stem Iraq's violence along with the influx of U.S. troops.

Both bombings were in Diyala, the province just north of Baghdad that remains one of the country's most violent regions despite dramatic security gains in the capital and elsewhere.

In the first attack, in the city of Muqdadiyah, 10 of those killed were members of the local anti-al Qaeda group who have partnered with U.S. and Iraqi forces to rid their neighborhood of militants, said Brig. Gen. Mohammed al-Tamimi, the city police chief, who said the bombing claimed 15 lives and wounded 20. The U.S. military said 12 people died and 17 were wounded.

Ibrahim Bajalan, the head of Diyala provincial council, said the bomber was a former member of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party whose two sons joined al Qaeda and were killed by Iraqi security forces.

"She wanted to avenge the killing of her two sons," he told The Associated Press. He said 15 people died and 35 were wounded when she detonated a belt of explosives.

The U.S. statement there was no confirmation that any of the dead or wounded were part of the anti-al Qaeda group. About half the wounded were taken to a nearby base for treatment, said Maj. Peggy Kageilery, a U.S. military spokeswoman for northern Iraq.

Jassim Jerad, a former Iraqi soldier who was injured in the bombing, said he saw a woman approaching the offices, then felt the explosion.

"I fell down, but stood up quickly to save my son, who was screaming," he said from his hospital bed, while his 6-year-old son wept nearby.

Later Friday, a suicide car bombing at a checkpoint near Mansouriayat al-Jabal killed seven Iraqi soldiers and three members of a local anti-al Qaeda group, according to Iraqi army Capt. Saad al-Zuhairi, who was about 150 yards away. Al-Zuhairi said the driver detonated his explosives when the guards asked to search the car.

In Other Developments:

  • CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick has the story of the Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, who have just returned to Ft. Hood, Texas after a harrowing 15-month tour in Diyala province. Some of the soldiers were shocked by how dangerous their deployment in the previously-unknown hotspot became. Now, the brigade's chaplain hopes the holidays will help the soldiers ease back into life off the battle field.
  • A Marine was charged for a second time with murdering a detainee three years ago in Fallujah, Iraq, the military announced Friday. Sgt. Jermaine A. Nelson was charged with murder and dereliction of duty, charges that were earlier dismissed to give a general more time to review the case. Nelson is the second person charged in the case that centers on allegations that a Marine squad shot a group of unarmed captives during heavy fighting in November 2004.
  • A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll shows that families with ties to the military - long a reliable source of support for wartime presidents - disapprove of President Bush and his handling of the war in Iraq, with a majority concluding the invasion was not worth it.
  • Tractor trailers, tank recovery vehicles, crates of machine guns and rocket propelled grenades are just a sampling of more than $1 billion in unaccounted for military equipment and services provided to the Iraqi security forces, according to a new report issued today by the Pentagon Inspector General and obtained exclusively by the CBS News investigative unit.
  • Democrats controlling Congress sent the most explicit signals yet on Thursday that they are resigned to providing additional funding for the war in Iraq before Congress adjourns for the year. Conceding that President Bush is in a strong position as Congress seeks to wrap up its work, Democrats are cooking up a pre-Christmas endgame that would deliver tens of billions of dollars for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan on conditions acceptable to the White House. The Iraq funding would ultimately be attached by Mr. Bush's Senate GOP allies to a $500 billion-plus "omnibus" appropriations bill taking shape in closed-door talks.
  • Insurgents exploded a bomb Friday under a key oil pipeline in northern Iraq, but oil continues to flow through the damaged pipe, Iraqi police said. The blast went off around 6 a.m. beneath a stretch of pipeline in al-Fatha, east of Beiji, police said. Leaking oil erupted in flames, and firefighters were still working to extinguish the fire by midmorning, they said. Beiji - which lies 155 miles north of Baghdad - houses northern Iraq's largest oil refinery, and serves as a key transfer point for crude oil being exported out of Iraq.

    Violence is down nationwide in Iraq, but has increased in the north, where al Qaeda militants and other extremists are believed to have fled a U.S.-led security crackdown that began in mid-February in Baghdad.

    As the influx of U.S. troops gained momentum earlier this year, American officials have courted both Sunni and Shiite tribal leaders around the country, hoping they will help lead local drives against al Qaeda and other militants. A similar effort saw some success in Iraq's westernmost province, Anbar, where Sunni tribes rose against the organization's brutality and austere version of Islam.

    The groups now include some 60,000 Iraqis nationwide, most of them Sunni Arabs, according to the U.S. military, and members have come under increasing attack from militants trying to offset recent security gains.

    Since the groups began forming in Diyala in July, many of their members have faced deadly militant strikes. In Baqouba, at least 13 have died in suicide attacks, roadside bombings shootings, according to records compiled from local police.