A roadside bomb killed the Iraqi police chief of a predominantly Shi'ite province south of Baghdad yesterday, just hours after US military commanders had publicly praised his efforts to secure his region.
The attack on Major-General Qais al-Mamouri's convoy comes at a time when tensions are running high between rival Shi'ite groups in the oil producing south of the country.
It also follows a threat by an al-Qa'ida-linked group to carry out car bomb attacks and strikes on Iraqi security forces and neighbourhood security patrols working with US soldiers.
Police said Mamouri, police chief of Babel province, was killed when the bomb struck his convoy near the local capital Hilla, 60 miles south of Baghdad.
They said it was the seventh attempt on Mamouri's life since he became Babel police chief several years ago. Police immediately declared a curfew in Hilla.
At a media briefing hours before the blast, US commanders responsible for areas including Babel had lauded Mamouri.
"We're very lucky in Babel province to have Major-General Qais, who is a very good Iraqi police chief for that province," Colonel Tom James, commander of a US combat brigade in north Babel, told reporters in Baghdad.
"He is committed to securing Iraq for the people, the population. He does not see anything through a sectarian lens. It's all about Iraqi law, and the people see that."
Asked for the US military's reaction to his assassination, a spokeswoman said: "This is a terrible loss."
Other provincial police chiefs across Iraq have survived numerous assassination attempts. A roadside bomb killed the police chief of Diwaniya province in southern Iraq in August.