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Bomb kills Anbar police chief; blasts rock Kurdish-held northeast

The senior police officer was killed in convoy near Ramadi as a series of car bombs killed at least 20 people north-east of Baghdad
Anbar has been hit by a string of car bomb attacks in recent weeks as the IS makes advances (AFP)

A roadside bomb killed the police chief of Iraq's battleground province of Anbar on Sunday, where Islamic State (IS) militants are just a “20-minute drive” from the capital Baghdad, according to Iraqi analysts.

The attack came near the provincial capital of Ramadi, one of the few areas between Baghdad and the Syrian border not controlled by fighters loyal to IS, provincial and police officials said.

"Major General Ahmed Saddag was killed by an IED [improvised explosive device] blast targeting his convoy this morning," Faleh al-Issawi, the deputy head of the provincial council, told AFP.

"The blast hit the convoy as it was passing through the Abu Risha district," just northwest of Ramadi, he said.

A senior police official in the province confirmed Saddag's death and said four other policemen were wounded in the attack.

"The police chief was leading forces involved in an operation to retake Twei" from IS, Colonel Abdulrahman al-Janabi said.

He said clashes between government forces and IS militants had erupted in the area on Saturday evening.

Violence north of Baghdad

Violence also broke out north-east of Baghdad, where three car bombs exploded on Sunday morning, killing at least 20 people in the Kurdish-controlled town of Qara Tapah, the mayor and security sources said.

“At 10:30 [07:30 GMT] this morning, three car bombs struck Qara Tapah, killing 20 people and wounding 10,” Mayor Wahab Ahmed told AFP.

Sunday’s blasts came after a day of explosions in Shiite areas of Baghdad that killed at least 34 and wounded 54, according to police and medical sources.

A suicide car bomb exploded at a police checkpoint guarding Kadhimiyah, a neighbourhood in the capital’s northwest that is home to one of the holiest shrines in Shiite Islam. A police colonel said at least 10 people were killed and 31 wounded, a toll confirmed by a medical source to AFP.

Farther west, in the district of Shoala, a car bomb went off in a busy commercial street, killing at least 24 people and wounding another 23, a medical source said.

There were conflicting reports as to whether the carnage in Shoala might have been caused by two consecutive explosions, but a source at the interior ministry gave a similar toll.

On Thursday, at least 12 people died in a car bomb attack on the Shiite neighbourhood of Sadr City.

The UN said more than 1,110 people were killed in acts of violence across Iraq in September. According to an AFP count, more than 250 have already been killed this month.

The violence has intensified in recent months as Islamic State  captured much of western Iraq. While Kurdish Peshmerga forces have had some success pushing back the militants in the north since the US-led coalition joined the fighting and began providing aerial support, Iraqi government forces have fared less well.

US officials told AFP on Friday that Anbar is “fragile”, while the vice-president of the province, Faleh al-Issawi, told The Times of London it could fall completely to IS “in 10 days”.

The provincial council of Anbar has reportedly written to the Iraqi central government and requested US ground troops to aid the fight against IS, local channel al-Sharqiyah has reported.

Control of Anbar would give IS a clear route into the capital.

“If the Islamic State controls Anbar, they would be able to threaten serious targets in Baghdad,” Saeed al-Jayashi, an Iraqi security expert, told the Washington Post on Friday.

“They are so close to Baghdad now,” Sajad Jayid, a research fellow at the Iraqi Institute for Economic Reform, told MEE. “I mean, they have always been around but they are now literally a 20-minute drive [away].”