sunni cleric attacked in retribution for aiding Americans

BAGHDAD, Aug. 11 — A Sunni cleric who had joined with U.S. forces to fight the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq was seriously wounded Saturday in a bomb blast at his Baghdad home, a dramatic act of retribution for his role in aiding the American military. Three of his relatives were killed in the attack.

A few hours later, two regional government leaders were killed in Qadisiyah, a predominantly Shiite province south of Baghdad.

The two attacks highlight a major obstacle still facing the U.S. military even as commanders cautiously welcome a declining overall level of violence. In both cases, the victims were believed to have been targeted by members of their own sect, providing a glimpse into the complexity of allegiances in Iraq.

A bomb hit Wathiq al-Obeidi’s home in the Adhamiyah area of northern Baghdad before dawn on Saturday, four days after Sunni insurgents had issued a four-page threat against his life. Local leaders said Obeidi was leading a group that was working with — and receiving weapons from — American troops as part of a growing effort to drive al-Qaeda in Iraq from some of Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhoods.

Saturday’s bombing is the first known incident in which a Sunni leader in Baghdad has been targeted for his alliance with American forces in working against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Over the past two months, U.S. commanders have provided large sums of money and significant powers to scores of Sunni fighters — some of whom are believed to have battled U.S. troops in the past — in an attempt to eliminate al-Qaeda in Iraq.

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