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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Al-Qaida Suspected in Iraq Bombing

APA video image of a child recovering in a hospital Wednesday from a bombing of a Yazidi community in Dahuk, Iraq.
BAGHDAD -- The U.S. military said Wednesday that al-Qaida was the "prime suspect" in the suicide bombings on an ancient minority sect that Iraqi officials said killed about 200 people in northwestern Iraq.

Rescue workers searched for bodies in the rubble of dozens of buildings destroyed in up to five simultaneous car bomb attacks.

The attackers, driving fuel tankers, struck densely populated residential areas west of the city of Mosul that are home to members of the Yazidi sect, whose followers are considered infidels by Sunni Islamist militant groups.

The U.S. military said it was too early to say who was responsible, but the scale and apparently coordinated nature meant the attack carried the hallmarks of Sunni Islamist al-Qaida. The United States has condemned the attack as barbaric.

"We're looking at al-Qaida as the prime suspect," U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver said.

The mayor of the district of Sinjar, Dakheel Qassim Hasoun, said 200 people had been killed in the blast. The remoteness of the area where the bombings occurred has made it difficult to get details of the attacks or the number of casualties.

If confirmed, the death toll would be the highest since November, when six car bombs in different parts of Baghdad's Shiite Sadr City district killed 200 people and wounded 250, while multiple car bombs killed 191 around Baghdad in April.

The U.S. military has launched a major new offensive in Iraq in a bid to thwart such attacks by al-Qaida and Shiite militias ahead of a progress report on the military's strategy in Iraq that is due to be presented to the U.S. Congress in September.

"This indiscriminate and heartless violence only strengthens our resolve to continue our mission against the terrorists who are plaguing the people of Iraq," U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and military commander General David Petraeus, who will both deliver the progress report, said in a joint statement.

In the aftermath of the blast, authorities imposed a total curfew in the Sinjar area, which is close to the Syrian border.

Mayor Hasoun said only people and vehicles involved in rescue efforts would be allowed to move through the area.

He said it would be impossible to establish a final death toll any time soon because many bodies were still buried in the rubble of up to 30 houses destroyed in the blasts.

n The top U.S. commander in Iraq will recommend pulling U.S. troops out of some areas where commanders believe security has improved, the Los Angeles Times said Wednesday, citing White House officials.

Petraeus' assessment of the situation in Iraq, to be issued in September, is regarded as pivotal amid pressure for President George W. Bush to change course in the conflict.

The newspaper said on its web site that instead of reducing the overall number of U.S. troops in Iraq, Petraeus could call for them to be moved to other regions of Iraq or for the creation of a reserve force in case of an increase in sectarian violence.