Suicide bomber kills three in Falluja

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iol news pic BAG03_SECURITY-ALQAEDA_0116_11 REUTERS A man inspects the site of a mortar attack in the city of Falluja, 70 km west of Baghdad. REUTERS/Stringer

Baghdad - A suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint manned by pro-government Sunni tribesmen 25 km west of the rebel-held Iraqi city of Falluja on Thursday, killing three and wounding two, police said.

Assailants also planted bombs around the mayor's office in Falluja, destroying it completely. There were no casualties as the building was unoccupied at the time, the police said.

Al Qaeda-linked militants, backed by Sunni tribesmen hostile to the Shi’a-led government, seized control of Falluja, 50 km west of Baghdad, on Jan. 1 and have been locked in a standoff with Iraqi troops and tanks around the city ever since.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ruled out a full-scale assault on Falluja, scene of some of the toughest battles fought by U.S. troops during their 2003-2011 occupation of Iraq, but has called on tribes there to evict the militants.

The militants and their allies overran Falluja after the government broke up an anti-government Sunni protest camp in the nearby city of Ramadi and arrested a Sunni opposition lawmaker in a raid in which his brother and five bodyguards were killed.

Iraq's minority Sunnis are divided. While most resent the policies of Maliki's government, many also oppose al Qaeda and some armed tribesmen are actively fighting the militants.


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