The battle for Ramadi is a month away and they’re car-bombing the children of the people they’re counting on for support? Doesn’t seem too bright. Which helps explain why it might not have happened:

The U.S. military said it was unaware of a bomb attack in the city of Ramadi on Tuesday in which Iraqi officials and a tribal leader said 18 people, mostly children, had been killed.

Iraqiya state TV said all those killed near a soccer field were children while local tribal leader Hamid Farhan al-Hays told the station 12 were children and six were women. Police said 19 people, mostly children, were killed or wounded.

A U.S. military spokesman, Major Jeff Pool, said a controlled blast by U.S. soldiers near a soccer field in Ramadi slightly wounded 30 people, including nine children. He said the wounded had cuts and bruises.

“I can’t imagine there would be another attack involving children without our people knowing,” said Pool.

Hays blamed the blast on Sunni Arab-led al Qaeda, which is involved in an escalating power struggle with Sunni elders for control of Anbar province, heart of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. Ramadi is the capital of Anbar.

The soccer field’s near an American base, so if the jihadis did do it, they’re either sending a message about not fraternizing with the occupier or it’s a simple revenge spasm aimed at a population they’re increasingly at war with.

Seems awfully specific to be a hoax:

The blast occurred in central Ramadi, a hotbed of the Sunni insurgency. The victims were aged 10 to 15, police said.

The bomb-rigged car blew apart at about 4:15 p.m. local time while the boys were playing…

It was not immediately known if the children were the intended targets, but young people are often caught in Iraq’s daily bloodshed.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s finally dropping the filthy Iraqi insurgent propaganda channel, al-Zawraa, from its satellite carrier. They insist it wasn’t political, but the U.S. has been leaning on them for months:

The chairman of the board of NileSat, the country’s government-owned satellite, said the Al-Zawraa feed was cut for technical reasons and not as an act of censorship. The channel’s owner said the move as politically motivated and said he would sue Egypt…

“The Americans are very angry with the station because it shows the real image of resistance, not so-called terrorism, and increasing resistance against the occupation,” [Mishan] Al-Jabouri said in a phone call from Damascus, Syria, where he lives in exile. “It seems as if the Egyptians are punishing us for that.”

Al-Jabouri said his channel is still being transmitted by another satellite, Arabsat.

Al-Jabouri himself publicly turned against Al Qaeda last week, but he’s still broadcasting on behalf of the rest of the jihad. Why had the Egyptians left him on the air for so long? Possibly because the military asked them to:

While the Iraqi soldiers and interpreters want al-Zawraa shut down, members of the U.S. intelligence community disagree. According to a military intelligence officer serving in Iraq, U.S. intelligence doesn’t want to shut al-Zawraa down as it provides intelligence on the insurgents activities. When I asked senior American military and intelligence sources about shutting down pro-jihadi websites in the past, they expressed the same sentiment.

With major operations in Anbar starting soon, maybe they figured the cost of letting Zawraa incite the locals finally outweighed the intel benefits.

Back in Baghdad, Gen. Odierno says sectarian killings are way down since the start of the surge. That’s due to two factors, probably: Sadr’s order to the Mahdi Army to lie low (temporarily) and, if you believe the unconfirmed reports Iraqslogger‘s getting, the possibility that the long knives are out and he’s having his own people whacked.

Sources in the capital say that Mahdi Army members have been disappearing or turning up dead in the Sadr City, Kadhimiya, and Baladiyat areas of the capital…

These are said to be inside jobs.

According to the word on the street, a “special team” has been dispatched from Najaf to dispose of Mahdi Army members who have been criminal or disloyal, or who have “disgraced” the Mahdi Army.

Exit question/quotation, sure to be the most pathetic of the day: “Can Congress continue to fault U.S. policy from a distance, or must lawmakers take hold of it and risk owning the outcome?”