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Suicide Bomber In West Iraq Kills Nine, Wounds 13

RAMADI, Iraq (Reuters) -- A suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into a police checkpoint just outside the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, killing nine people and wounding at least 13, police have said.

Policeman Hatim Abid, who was at the scene, said four police were among the dead, and the rest were civilians. Police Major Fawzi Hamad said the wounded included three children and two women.

Ramadi lies about 100 kilometers west of Baghdad.

The blast also set half a dozen cars ablaze, Hamad said. Police checkpoints are a favorite target of insurgents seeking to show that Iraqi security forces are unable to keep people safe as U.S. troops gradually draw down.

Once the heartland of a Sunni Arab insurgency, western Iraq's Anbar Province has been relatively quiet since tribal sheikhs teamed up with U.S. troops to drive out Al-Qaeda in late 2006.

But sporadic attacks continue in the vast desert province, which shares a border with Syria, from where Iraq's government says many foreign jihadists enter Iraq.

A series of bombings in Anbar in July prompted Iraqi security forces to declare a state of emergency there. A car bomb in Anbar killed six on August 2.

U.S. combat troops withdrew from Iraqi cities at the end of June, raising fears of a return to the sectarian bloodshed that nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006 and 2007. But U.S. officials say there have been no signs of reprisal killings for any bombings carried out in recent months.

Two big bombs outside government ministries in Baghdad last month killed nearly 100 people in Iraq's bloodiest day this year, prompting a rare admission of failure from Iraqi security officials.

Iraq has blamed militants based in Syria for those bombs and has called on Damascus to hand over suspects it accuses of masterminding the bombings. Syria denies being a safe haven for foreign fighters.