BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber detonated a vest packed with explosives in a Sunni Arab mosque in Fallujah yesterday, killing 10 worshipers, including the imam, and shattering what had been a period of relative calm for a region once the most volatile hotbed of Iraq's insurgency.
The attack at the end of evening prayers, the deadliest to shake Anbar province since Sunni tribal leaders began working with US forces in recent months to purge Islamist insurgents, was blamed on the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq by American military officials and a Fallujah police official.
The blast, which killed Imam Abdul-Sattar Jumaili and nine other men and injured 11, underscored the violence gripping Iraq despite the recent US troop buildup and a fresh pledge by Iraqi government officials to work together.
Violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims was blamed for attacks that killed Shi'ite pilgrims along a 50-mile route to a shrine in Karbala. Clashes between rival Shi'ite militias in Karbala left three dead and scores injured as the city filled with an estimated 1 million faithful for today's culmination of the annual Shabaniyah ritual, witnesses reported.
The US military also announced the deaths of four American troops in weekend clashes. Two of the four Americans died in a firefight with insurgents in Samarra on Sunday. The other two, both Marines, died in separate clashes in Anbar west of Baghdad, on Saturday and Sunday.
"No one, from the Marine lance corporal to our commanding general would say that AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq) is defeated or completely swept out of al-Anbar," said Major Jeff Pool, spokesman for the forces deployed in western Iraq. "Last week we had about 70 enemy incidents -- attacks or attempted attacks -- in al-Anbar. Last year at this time there were about 450 enemy incidents."
In Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad, two bombs detonated near the route of the governor's motorcade in what some witnesses believed was the third assassination attempt on a provincial leader in as many weeks. Unlike the leaders of Qudisiyah and Muthana provinces killed earlier this month, Governor Hamad Hamoud Shightay was unharmed. He said he believed the bombs were targeted at US troops in the area.
In Baghdad, the body of a CBS News translator who had been kidnapped last week was one of about a dozen that turned up on the streets of the capital yesterday. Anwar Abbas Lafta had worked for the network for 10 months after spending the previous three years in the employ of the US military, CBS News reported from New York.
The Shi'ite pilgrimage to Karbala to mark the birth date of the ninth-century "Hidden Imam" drew hostile fire, presumably from Sunni militants, in at least four venues yesterday. Snipers also had harassed the procession over the weekend, when the first marchers began walking toward the birthplace of Mohammed Mahdi, an imam who disappeared 1,200 years ago and who the Shi'ite faithful believe will return one day to rule over a peaceful era.
The violence in Karbala was said to have occurred when police believed to be aligned with the militia loyal to Najaf Shi'ite leader Abdulazziz Hakim waved his son's bodyguards through checkpoints without searches. That enraged members of the Mahdi Army loyal to radical anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.