Bombers kill 175 in attack on 'anti-Islam' sect in Iraq

SUICIDE bombers driving fuel tankers killed at least 175 people in apparently co-ordinated attacks targeting an obscure religious sect in Iraq yesterday.

It was one of the worst incidents of its kind in the four-year-old war.

Iraqi army officials said at least another 200 people were wounded in the bombings in residential compounds near the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, close to the Syrian border.

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Police said the bombings appeared to target the Yazidis, members of a pre- Islamic Kurdish sect.

The Islamic State in Iraq, an al-Qaeda front group, distributed leaflets a week ago warning that an attack was imminent because Yazidis were "anti-Islamic".

Yazidis worship an angel figure that some Christians and Muslims believe to be the devil.

Khadir Shamu, a 30-year-old Yazidi who works for the government, said he and a friend were relaxing when the blasts shattered the peaceful evening.

"My friend and I were thrown high in the air. I still don't know what happened to him," he said.

Earlier yesterday, a suicide truck bomber killed ten people and destroyed a bridge linking Baghdad to the north.

The US military also announced that ten service personnel had died in the past two days, including five when a Chinook helicopter crashed.

The deaths take the number of US military personnel killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein to at least 3,699.

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George Bush, the US president, had warned that August would be a bloody month.

US forces launched Operation Lightning Hammer, an offensive involving 16,000 troops, beginning with an airborne assault early yesterday. It was part of a push against both Sunni fighters linked to al-Qaeda and Shi'ite militias accused of connections with Iran.

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