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Oct-18-2008 18:42printcomments

Iraqis Who Worked With Americans Killed by Masked Gunmen

The killing times out with a call by radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for Americans to end the military occupation of Iraq.

A Sunni Awakening Council
A Sunni Awakening Council "Sons of Iraq" checkpoint near Balad, Iraq, September, 2008. Photo by Tim King

(SALEM, Ore.) - Five Iraqi males were shot and killed in an attack by masked gunmen Saturday near the Balad Air Base north of Baghdad.

The U.S. military confirms that the gunmen attacked a house that belongs to the leader of the local Sunni Awakening Council. Several of these men who oversee the Sons of Iraq checkpoints have been shown in reports that I recently filed from Iraq. I do not know if these were the individuals involved in the attack. (See video with this story)

This particular group has worked closely with the Americans and Iraqi military to drive the insurgency from the area while standing up against terrorists from al Qaida.

It is reported that a pregnant woman was injured in the attack but escaped with her life. She was transported to a U.S. military base, presumably Balad, for treatment.

The Sunnis attacked on Saturday are known to be strong partners in the recent effort to stem violence in the region. This cooperation has led the members of this group to be frequent targets of extremists, as reported by the AP.

This killing times out with a call by powerful anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to call for the end of the U.S. occupation. Tens of thousands marched in Baghdad this weekend to demand the exit of Americans and to urge the Iraqi parliament to reject a pact that would extend U.S. presence in Iraq for three years.

"I am with every Sunni, Shiite or Christian who is opposed to the agreement ... and I reject, condemn and renounce the presence of occupying forces and bases on our beloved land," al-Sadr said in a message read to the crowd by a senior aide.

The pact to keep American military forces in Iraq was reached after months of tense negotiations. It lays down the rules for the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expires December 31st. The release of the draft became available this week, setting off a debate by Iraq's highest ranking lawmakers.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.