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Iraq suicide bomber kills eight

A suicide bomber has attacked a group of soldiers collecting their pay cheques in a western Iraqi city, killing eight people, police said.

Violence has dropped significantly from the bloody days of the insurgency, but al Qaida-linked militants often target Iraqi security personnel because they are seen as allied with the Shiite-led government. The militants also want to intimidate new recruits to the security services.

A suicide bomber with explosives strapped to his chest walked up to a crowd of soldiers collecting their cheques at a bank in Haditha, 140 miles north-west of Baghdad, said Waid Khalif, the deputy commander of the city's police force.

The bomber set off his explosives while some of the soldiers were inside the bank and others were outside waiting to go in.

The police commander said six soldiers and two civilians were killed in the attack and 11 people were wounded, and a curfew has been imposed on the city.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Iraqi security personnel are often targeted by al Qaida.

Haditha is known for the 2005 incident in which a group of Marines went on a rampage and killed two dozen civilians, sparking outrage across Iraq.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who led a political coalition heavily supported by Iraq's minority Sunnis, has turned down a position in the new government in a move that could further marginalise Sunnis.

Allawi's political bloc, Iraqiya, narrowly won the most seats in last year's parliamentary election, but he was outmanoeuvred by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who kept his job after drawn-out negotiations.

Allawi has wavered on whether he would take the position as head of the National Council for Strategic Policies as both sides argued over how much power the body would have. If the decision holds, it would strengthen al-Maliki's grip on power and would also risk alienating Sunni Arabs whose marginalisation after the fall of their patron Saddam Hussein helped fuel the insurgency.

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