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Sunni Awakening resolute in face of Iraq bombing

A suicide bomber on Sunday killed at least 43 in an attack on members of the Sunni Awakening, which helped turned the tide against Al Qaeda in Iraq. Iraqis are concerned Al Qaeda could regain ground as the US pulls out its combat troops next month.

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Much more frequent attacks have been aimed at police officers, who have seen families killed by gunmen using silencers, and their houses repeatedly blown up. Many of those attacks have taken place in and around Fallujah, a former insurgent and Al Qaeda stronghold 30 miles west of Baghdad.

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“There will be no return for Al Qaeda,” says Fallujah police chief Brig. Gen. Mahmoud Ibrahim al-Essawi. “Bombing homes of police officers and members is to destabilize security and this will not succeed because we made plans that we cannot reveal now…. I accuse Al Qaeda for the attacks…but they will not defeat [our] resolve and this city will not embrace them again.”

Iraqi forces in Anbar have 'proven themselves very capable'

American officers also say that, despite the continued attacks, Al Qaeda and affiliated Sunni militants have lost many previous capabilities, and that low-level Al Qaeda operatives have even been found working for non-Al Qaeda groups, sometimes for cash.

“Al Qaeda, as a coherent terrorist organization that existed in previous times, has been severely degraded,” says Brig. Gen. Tovo. “Just look at the damage they’ve taken at the senior and mid-level leadership over the course of the spring and early summer. They have lost their coherence, their funding has been [cut] back, and frankly, [there is a] lack of popular support.”

Gen. Odierno interview: Al Qaeda in Iraq faces serious financial crunch

Iraqi forces have “proven themselves very capable in Anbar,” adds Tovo. Al Qaeda in Iraq “can perpetrate violence, but at this point they are not a serious threat to Iraqi Security Force control.”

But that has not stopped attacks from happening, or pro-Al Qaeda websites from calling for revenge online. One Web posting on Monday celebrated Sunday’s attack, showing graphic before and after photos of the attack. The banner on the page addressed the Awakening militias: “Wait for the plucking of your heads, you traitors.”

---Sahar Issa and Mohammed al-Dulaimy in Baghdad and Jamal Naji in Fallujah contributed reporting.

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