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The leader of the Baqouba “concerned citizens” group was killed in a vehicle crash after attending a security meeting with Iraqi and American troops, officials said Tuesday.

Haji Uday was the most senior leader of an armed civilian group that has aligned itself with American and Iraqi security forces to patrol neighborhoods in the city, north of Baghdad.

In recent months, U.S. military officials have pushed the groups as one of the new pillars of security in Iraq.

Typically, members of the groups are paid around $300 a month by U.S. forces, though their arms are not provided by the Iraqi or American militaries. While the groups have been largely Sunni, Shiite groups also formed in some parts of the country.

According to U.S. military officials, Uday was killed Sunday when his vehicle collided with a dump truck.

Uday’s son was also in the vehicle and was taken to a military hospital for treatment.

Four other Iraqis were injured in the crash, officials said.

The incident occurred near Khalis, outside Baqouba.

The group was being escorted by Iraqi police at the time.

“Haji Uday courageously fought al-Qaida in Iraq, and his efforts played a large role in evicting AQI from Baqouba,” Col. Jon Lehr, commander of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, said in a news release.

“This tragic accident is only a temporary setback. We will persevere in bringing peace and security for the people of Baqouba by working together.”

U.S. officials said the accident is under investigation.

The past week has seen “an increase in intimidation attacks on members of the local volunteer security forces,” particularly in Baghdad, according to U.S. officials.

The leader of a Sunni group in Adhamiyah was killed by a suicide bomber on Jan. 7, and a Shiite leader was killed on Jan. 6.

In other regions, both leaders and members of the groups have been threatened with death for their participation.

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