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The leader of a local militia aligned with American troops was killed Saturday when a bomb planted in his own vehicle detonated, U.S. military officials said Monday.

The man, who was only identified as a “concerned local citizen leader” by the military, is among a growing number of such armed group leaders being targeted by insurgents. The attack occurred in northern Baghdad, officials said.

Known as “Awakening Councils,” or CLC’s, as the U.S. military calls them, the groups are made up of Iraqi civilians whose tribes and clans have grown weary of Sunni extremists.

The group members are paid by the U.S. military and “are allowed to conduct their own security operations and patrols,” according to American officials.

Largely made up of Sunnis, the groups have become one of the new cornerstones of American strategy in Iraq. The groups have helped tamp down violence in many parts of Iraq, particularly in once-volatile Anbar province, by manning checkpoints, turning in weapons caches and conducting neighborhood patrols.

But in recent weeks, the leaders of the groups have been increasingly targeted, particularly after al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden released an audio recording calling the groups “traitors” and “infidels” and endorsing their elimination.

“This was a cowardly and desperate act executed by terrorists bent on derailing reconciliation efforts and progress … as a result of cooperation and resolve on the part of local Iraqi leaders and citizens,” Col. Todd B. McCaffrey, commander of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, said in a news release about Saturday’s attack.

According to Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, more than 100 Sunni militiamen have been killed in the past month. Most of the killings have happened in Baghdad and Baqouba.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have estimated the citizen groups include some 80,000 people throughout Iraq. About 80 percent are Sunni.


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