Car bomb kills 26 mourners

Published May 25, 2007

BAGHDAD - A bomb hidden in a parked car struck the funeral procession of a Sunni tribal leader who was gunned down earlier Thursday, killing at least 26 mourners as al-Qaida appeared to turn up its campaign of frightening its growing opposition into submission.

The attack in Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, targeted the passing procession for Alaa Zuwaid, a 60-year-old restaurant owner who was part of a Sunni tribe that had formed an alliance with other tribal leaders against al-Qaida. Police and medical officials said 45 other people were wounded in the bombing.

Zuwaid was killed that morning when militants shot him in front of his house, police said - nearly a month after his 25-year-old son was slain as he walked down the street.

In all, 87 people were killed or found dead in sectarian violence across Iraq on Thursday.

Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops pressed their search for two missing U.S. soldiers through the fields of southern Iraq in scorching temperatures, and the military said it would not call off the hunt.

The body of a third soldier - 20-year-old Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr., missing since a May 12 ambush claimed by al-Qaida - was pulled from the Euphrates River and identified Wednesday.

Members of Anzack's platoon choked back tears at news of his death and said they would not stop looking for the two others.

"We can't leave them behind. I just hope that they have enough faith to keep them going. What they're going through right now, I can't imagine, " said Pfc. Sammy Rhodes, 25, of Albuquerque, N.M.

The U.S. military also announced Thursday that two U.S. soldiers were killed the day before while conducting combat operations in Iraq's volatile Anbar province. Those deaths raised the American death toll for the month to at least 82. Last month, 104 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq.

In other violence, gunmen attacked a small bus in a predominantly Shiite region on the northern outskirts of Baghdad, killing 11 passengers. Then the gunmen planted a bomb on the bus, which they exploded when police arrived. Four police officers were wounded.

A suicide bomber detonated a bomb aboard another small bus driving through Baghdad, killing three civilians and wounding eight, police said.

In Sulaiman Bek, 75 miles south of the northern city of Kirkuk, a roadside bomb killed six officers in a police convoy Thursday morning, Iraqi police said.

Senior U.S. military commanders said Thursday that Muqtada al-Sadr, the influential Shiite cleric and militia leader who went into hiding before the launch of a U.S.-Iraqi security offensive in February, is in the southern city of Kufa.

Sadr, who has long opposed the U.S. occupation and is ratcheting up pressure for a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, has returned from neighboring Iran, perhaps as recently as this week, they said.

"He's been very quiet since he's come back, " said Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil Jr., commander of the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division, which is spearheading the offensive in and around Baghdad, now in its fourth month.

Fast Facts:


Nominations: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki nominated ministers to fill six Cabinet posts that supporters of anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr vacated last month. There was no quorum and a vote was put off until Sunday. Although the Bush administration has been pressing the prime minister to pursue less sectarian politics, all six nominees, like Maliki, are Shiites.

Improvement: The overall situation for detainees in Iraq has improved, the Red Cross chief said Thursday, citing the closure of the Abu Ghraib prison and increased access to detainees, but the organization still cannot visit more than 18, 000 inmates there.