Bombings, gunmen strike police, civilians in Iraq; 42 killed

BAGHDAD -- Car bombs and gunmen struck new U.S. allies, police and civilians Sunday in northern Iraq, killing at least 42 people.

The deadliest bombing on Sunday was near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, against a checkpoint manned jointly by Iraqi police and members of an awakening group.

The U.S. military said a car bomb exploded near an Iraqi checkpoint in a market in Balad, killing at least 23 civilians and wounding 25. U.S. and Iraqi forces had secured the area and the wounded had been evacuated to hospitals, according to a statement.

Iraqi police said the attack was a suicide truck bombing against a checkpoint manned by anti-al-Qaida fighters and Iraqi police at the entrance of a bridge in the district of Yathrib on the outskirts of Balad. Security forces opened fire on the driver, but he managed to detonate his payload, devastating a nearby car market and other stores.

Police in the joint coordination center of the surrounding Salahuddin province gave death tolls as high as 34 and said 37 others were wounded. Capt. Kadim Hamid said many residents in the predominantly Sunni area had removed victims directly from the site because they feared going to the hospital in Balad's mostly Shiite center.

The explosion came hours after suspected al-Qaida-linked insurgents stormed two villages near the Syrian border but were repelled by U.S.-allied fighters and Iraqi security forces in clashes that left at least 22 people dead.

Sheik Fawaz al-Jarba, the head of the Mosul anti-al-Qaida group, and other officials said the 22 killed included 10 militants and six members of the so-called awakening group in the area, as well as four women and two children.

The U.S. military in northern Iraq confirmed an attack on compound housing its Sunni allies against al-Qaida in Iraq near Sinjar, about 60 miles west of Mosul, saying five U.S.-allied fighters were killed, five wounded and 10 insurgents were killed.

Insurgents also attacked a group of civilians elsewhere in the northern Ninevah province Sunday, killing two men and one child and wounding two other men, two women and two infants, according to the military.

Iraqi police also said four civilians were killed Sunday when a tanker truck laden with explosives blew up near an Iraqi army checkpoint on Mosul's southern outskirts.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has promised a "decisive battle" against the terror network in Mosul but given no start date. The U.S. military has warned it will not be a swift strike, but rather a grinding campaign that will require more firepower.