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Bombings kill 10 in Iraq PM pledges jobs for Anbar allies

HILLA, Feb 12, (AFP): A bomb killed six Iraqi soldiers south of Baghdad on Wednesday, while another blast in the country’s north left four civilians dead, officials said. Iraq is suffering a protracted surge in violence to a level not seen since 2008, which authorities have so far failed to stem. A roadside bomb exploded near an army patrol in the Jurf al-Sakhr area, where mortar rounds wounded 12 police on Tuesday. Six soldiers were killed, an officer and a hospital employee said. Another blast in the northern town of Tuz Khurmatu killed four people and wounded eight, while two more blasts wounded three police and another civilian. Both security force personnel and civilians are targeted in the daily bombings and shootings that plague Iraq. Foreign leaders have urged the Shiite-led government to do more to reach out to the disaffected Sunni Arab minority but Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki has taken a hard line ahead of a general election scheduled for April. Meanwhile, al-Maliki promised police jobs for pro-government fighters in Anbar province Wednesday, as the deputy premier said they aim to cut supplies to gunmen holding one of its cities.

Anti-government fighters seized all of the city of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, west of Baghdad, where the United Nations says up to 300,000 people have fled a surge in unrest this year. Clashes in the province have pitted security forces and pro-government tribesmen against jihadist militants and tribal fighters opposed to the authorities. Police in Anbar “will absorb all the honourable sons of the tribes who stood on the side” of security forces, Maliki said in televised remarks in which he announced measures aimed at addressing the crisis. It was not clear when the pledge would be implemented, and some tribesmen previously promised jobs after joining forces with the United States against al-Qaeda militants have faced years of delay in receiving them.

Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al- Shahristani said that to avoid the risk of civilian casualties that would be posed by an armed assault, “the current plan is to restrict the gunmen until (they) run out of weapons and equipment”. Non-military supplies would still be allowed into Fallujah, Shahristani told reporters. Given militants’ long experience with smuggling, the potentially significant quantities of weapons and ammunition already in Fallujah, and the lack of major clashes that would cause fighters to run out of either, the strategy seems unlikely to lead to a swift result. On Tuesday, the United Nations announced a sharp increase in the number of people displaced in Anbar. “Over the last six weeks up to 300,000 Iraqis — some 50,000 families — have been displaced due to insecurity around Fallujah and Ramadi,” a UN refugee agency statement said.

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