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Anti-al Qaeda leader among 15 killed in Baghdad blasts

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Explosion in Adhamiya district kills Riyadh al-Samaraie, five others
  • Minutes later, blast hits Awakening Council in Sabaa Abkar area, killing eight
  • Anti-al Qaeda Awakening Councils mainly Sunni, sometimes include ex-militants
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BAGHDAD, Iraq CNN) -- A well-respected Sunni leader who was key in helping reduce violence in his northern Baghdad neighborhood was among at least 15 people killed in three separate suicide bombings Monday, officials said.

Both blasts killed members of local Awakening Councils, continuing a spate of aggressive attacks by al Qaeda in Iraq fighters against the groups in recent weeks.

Riyadh al-Samaraie, an army officer who headed a local Awakening Council, was killed about 10:50 a.m. local time (2:50 a.m. ET), when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive in the Adhamiya district, a Sunni area in northern Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said.

Five others were killed in the blast, including two of al-Samaraie's guards, and at least 10 more were wounded.

The attack took place inside a compound of the Sunni Endowment, which oversees Sunni religious sites in Iraq.

About 10 minutes later, a suicide car bomb struck an office used by an Awakening Council in the Sabaa Abkar neighborhood, also in northern Baghdad.

Eight people, including three council members, were killed. Fifteen others were wounded in the attack about 11 p.m. local time (3 a.m. ET)

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The anti-al Qaeda Awakening Councils are predominantly Sunni and sometimes include former militants. Many of them have been recruited by the U.S. military's "Concerned Local Citizen's Program" to work against al Qaeda in Iraq.

The third bombing of the day took place near an Iraqi patrol in central Baghdad about 12:30 p.m. local time, the official said. The roadside bomb killed a bystander and wounded four people, including three police officers, in a commercial street in the Jadriya district.

On Sunday, three Iraqi soldiers may have helped avoid further casualties when they subdued a suicide bomber at an Army Day rally in central Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

The bombing was one of three in Iraq on Sunday that together claimed at least 16 lives. Also Sunday, gunmen shot to death a Shiite tribal sheikh, Iraqi officials said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said three suspected al Qaeda in Iraq members were killed by air strikes launched from U.S. Apache helicopters on Friday night and Saturday morning near Maderiya, Iraq.

The first air strike Friday night targeted and killed two militants who were spotted digging in a canal, apparently burying weapons, the military said.

The second air strike on Saturday killed a militant who was digging in the same area, the military said.

Afterward, missiles were fired into the ground and secondary explosions confirmed munitions were hidden there, the military said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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