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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Al-Qaida Linked Group Claims Attack

BAGHDAD -- A group linked to al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility on Tuesday for a suicide car bomb that killed nine U.S. soldiers and wounded 20 in one of the worst attacks on U.S. troops since the invasion in 2003.

"Two knights from the Islamic State in Iraq ... driving two booby-trapped trucks hit the heart of the crusader American headquarters in the region of Diyala," a statement from the Sunni group of the Islamic State in Iraq said in an Internet posting.

The U.S. military said only one suicide attacker was involved in Monday's attack on a military outpost at Diyala, north of Baghdad.

While frontal assaults by insurgents against heavily fortified U.S. bases in Iraq are rare, a security plan that places troops in less protected garrisons in Baghdad and neighboring areas has exposed them to greater risk.

The bombing came as U.S. President George W. Bush faced pressure from Democrats to set a timetable for the withdrawal of nearly 150,000 troops from Iraq. Congress will vote this week on a funding bill that sets March 31, 2008 as the goal for pulling out most troops.

A U.S. military statement said the attack took place near Baquba, capital of Diyala province, a religiously mixed area where U.S. commanders last month sent 1,000 extra troops to combat entrenched Sunni Arab insurgents and al-Qaida in Iraq militants.

"We have seen a lot of recent attacks up in Diyala ... that have been part of the fight for the province," U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Garver said.

It was the second assault on such an outpost outside Baghdad in two months, after a suicide truck bomber killed two soldiers and wounded 17 in February in what appeared to be a tactical shift by insurgents avoiding large U.S. firepower.

At least 86 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq this month, making April the deadliest month since December, when 112 were killed. At least 3,333 U.S. soldiers have been killed since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The military said 15 of the wounded troops in Diyala returned to duty after medical treatment. One Iraqi civilian was also wounded.

On Tuesday, gunmen wearing uniforms of the Iraqi army raided a neighborhood in Baquba, killing six people, wounding 15 and burning several homes, police said. A suicide car bomber on Monday killed 10 Iraqi policemen during a gathering of senior police officials in Baquba, including the city's police chief.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with top officials from Kuwait and the U.S. on Tuesday to discuss the $15 billion Baghdad owes Kuwait and ways to stop the infiltration of foreign fighters, officials said.

Maliki, on his second visit to this oil-rich emirate as prime minister, met with Emir Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah for about an hour and later held a separate meeting with David Satterfield, an adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Iraq.

In other violence on Tuesday, two car bombs exploded in a parking lot in front of the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, wounding four people, one day after two bombs exploded in the same area.

U.S. officials accuse Iranians of fuelling Iraq's sectarian conflict by supplying weapons and training to Shiite militias.

Reuters, AP