Eight people were killed and 15 wounded yesterday in a suicide car bomb attack on a security checkpoint in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, a former al-Qaeda stronghold, police said.
The predominantly Sunni Arab city, capital of Anbar province, was a key insurgent base in the aftermath of the toppling of late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s regime by US-led forces in 2003, but violence has dropped dramatically since.
Yesterday’s attack happened at around 8:30am in al-Jazeera, a northern neighbourhood of Ramadi, a police official said.
“There were four security force members and four civilians among the victims,” he said, adding that the 15 wounded comprised 13 civilians and two police.
Ramadi, a city of around 540,000 people, is situated 100km west of Baghdad.
Anbar, Iraq’s biggest province, became the theater of a brutal war focused on the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, while several towns along the Euphrates river valley became al-Qaeda strongholds and later safe havens for insurgents.
But since 2006 local Sunni tribes there have sided with the US military and unrest has dwindled across Anbar as rebel fighters have been ejected from the region.
In September last year, US marines turned over control of Anbar to about 28,000 Iraqi police and 8,000 troops.
Yesterday’s attack comes after Baghdad ministries said violent deaths in Iraq hit a 13-month high last month, raising fresh concerns about the country’s stability after the government recently admitted that security was worsening.
Statistics compiled by the defense, interior and health ministries on Sept. 1 showed 456 people — 393 civilians, 48 police and 15 Iraqi soldiers — were killed, the highest toll since July last year when 465 died in unrest.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent extra troops to the west of the country at the weekend to secure the border with Syria and hit out at countries he said were giving terrorists the shelter they need to mount attacks inside Iraq.
Maliki signaled no let-up in a worsening row with its neighbor for allegedly harboring bombers who wrought devastation on Baghdad last month and broadened his attack to include other nations.
“We will always look for a process of closing all the doors that the assassins can breathe from again. We blame our brothers and our friends and neighboring countries,” he said on Saturday.
Anbar’s police chief confirmed that police and soldiers had been sent to strengthen security along the Iraq-Syria border, which stretches for 725km, although he would not specify how many.