BAGHDAD, Iraq – The growing confrontation between tribal leaders in Anbar Province and al-Qaida took a violent turn Thursday when a suicide bomber drove into a crowd gathering for a funeral procession in the volatile city of Fallujah, killing at least 27 people and wounding dozens of others. The attack on the mourners followed a pattern of two-stage assaults that has been replicated often in the four-year war. At breakfast time, masked gunmen assassinated a prominent Sunni tribal leader, Allawi al-Issawi, who had joined others across Anbar in opposing terrorist groups linked to al-Qaida. Less than three hours later, as mourners gathered for a funeral procession outside the tribal leader’s home, the suicide bomber struck. A bright spot The tribal leaders’ campaign has helped make Anbar one of the few bright spots in Iraq for the Americans. With many of the Sunni sheiks calling on their followers to join the Iraqi army and police and declaring al-Qaida a common enemy of Iraqi Sunnis, levels of violence across much of Anbar have dropped sharply, especially in the provincial capital of Ramadi and in towns along the Euphrates River valley. But the area around Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, has seen a violent struggle between tribal leaders eager to follow the lead set in Ramadi and other tribal groups that continue to back al-Qaida in what American commanders call the “Baghdad belts,” predominantly Sunni areas like Fallujah that straddle the approaches to the capital. Widespread attacks The Fallujah attack occurred on another day of widespread violence, much of it apparently committed by Sunni insurgent groups. Gunmen who set up a fake checkpoint at Hussainiya, on the northeastern outskirts of Baghdad, stopped a minibus and raked the Shiite passengers with gunfire, killing 11, including several women and children. The police said the attackers then left a bomb in the wreckage that exploded as rescuers arrived on the scene, killing two civilians and wounding several others. Car bombings, suicide attacks, mortar volleys and ambushes killed at least 50 others. They included six Iraqi policemen who died in a roadside bombing in the town of Suleiman Beg, about 60 miles south of the oil city of Kirkuk in an area of mixed Sunni, Kurdish and Turkmen population, where Sunni insurgents have been active. The police in Baghdad said they found 22 bodies in the city on Wednesday, bringing the number of unidentified bodies found abandoned in the capital, many bearing signs of torture, to more than 340 this month. That figure appears to be rising again, after a fall in the past three months. U.S. commanders have cited lower levels of sectarian killings as a tentative early sign of success in President George W. Bush’s “surge” strategy, under which nearly 30,000 additional U.S. troops have been committed to the war, with the last of them now preparing to deploy in Baghdad and other war hot spots like Diyala province. But the commanders have conceded that a lower rate of sectarian killing has been offset by an unabated tempo of suicide bombings, the attacks that claim the largest number of civilian deaths. The U.S. military command said two U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday during combat operations in Anbar province, increasing a U.S. military death toll that has risen above 80 so far in May, one of the highest death rates in the war. U.S. commanders have said they expect American casualties to rise as the summer progresses and the troop increase reaches its peak. More than 150,000 troops are now deployed here, close to the highest level at any stage since the 2003 invasion. Death confirmed At least five of the American combat deaths this month resulted from a May 12 ambush in which three soldiers were abducted. The U.S. command confirmed on Thursday that a body found in the Euphrates River on Wednesday near the town of Musayyib, in a Qaida stronghold about 45 miles south of Baghdad, was that of Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance. The search for the two other missing soldiers – Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass., and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich. – continued. Sadness, relief Among the thousands of U.S. troops involved in the manhunt, the recovery of Anzack’s body was greeted with a mixture of sadness and relief. “It’s good to have the finality of it,” said Lt. Michael Nunziato, 24, of Buffalo, N.Y., a member of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 210th Mountain Division, which lost a soldier in a bomb explosion on Saturday during the search for the missing men. Nunziato added, referring to Anzack, “You never want it to be that he passed away, but you have to keep up hope for the remaining two. You have to keep up hope.” In Baghdad on Thursday, Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki named replacements for six Cabinet ministers who quit last month on the orders of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. At the time, al-Sadr said he was taking the action to protest al-Maliki’s refusal to back a timeline for the departure of U.S. forces. But the cleric may also have wanted to distance himself from the increasingly unpopular Maliki administration.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!