Suicide attacker kills Iraqi police

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Sunni insurgents boldly attacked fellow Sunni Arabs on Wednesday, the latest in a growing campaign against those who cooperate with the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

A suicide bomber cloaked in explosives killed two policemen and 13 police recruits gathered in Fallujah, a city surrounded by U.S. Marine checkpoints. In a nearby town, three Sunni soldiers from the U.S.-trained Iraqi army were found slain.

The suicide attack outside the main police station in Fallujah occurred a day after the governor of Anbar province, which includes Fallujah, narrowly escaped assassination. A suicide bomber exploded his vehicle near Maamoun Sami Rashid al-Alwani’s convoy in Ramadi, killing 10 people. The governor was not injured, U.S. officials said.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have been urging Sunni Arabs to join the police and army, which has been dominated by the rival Shiite Muslim sect and ethnic Kurds. Sunni community leaders says the presence of Shiite and Kurdish troops in their areas raises sectarian tensions and undermines confidence in the government.

Training and recruiting Sunni Arab police and soldiers is part of a broader strategy by U.S. and Iraqi authorities to establish a political role for selected Sunni insurgent groups. The goal is to split more moderate elements from the Saddam Hussein’s fanatic loyalists and extremists such as al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Last weekend, President Jalal Talabani said officials from his office met with insurgent representatives and he was hopeful about a deal.

U.S. officials also acknowledge contacts with Sunnis who have ties to the insurgency. But American diplomats have not confirmed a report this week in a leading Arabic newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, that said U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had met seven times since Jan. 16 with representatives of 10 major insurgent groups.

“Negotiations with armed groups will reduce violence” and “alienate the terrorists,” Talabani’s security adviser, Lt. Gen. Wafiq al-Samarraie, said Wednesday on Iraqi state television. “Consequently, no one will be able to say “we are resistance groups,’ only that they are foreigners, kidnappers and groups that carry out kidnappings, robberies and killings.”

Violence shows little sign of abating. Instead, it has shifted from mainly attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces to carefully targeted murders of Iraqis.

On Sunday, nearly 1,000 soldiers graduated from army basic training – the first all-Sunni class. Two days later, four of them were slain in Ramadi. Three more of the new soldiers were found dead Wednesday in Khaldiyah, just north of Fallujah, police said.

Reprisal killings between Sunni and Shiite militias continue unabated.

The bodies of 20 Iraqi men were found in several areas of the capital, apparent victims of death squads that kidnap civilians of rival Muslim sects, torture them, and dump their bodies. They included 14 bodies discovered near the gates of an amusement park in a mostly Shiite area of northeast Baghdad, police said.

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