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Violence persists throughout Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq—While American officials and the U.S.-backed Iraqi government are touting the retaking of Fallujah and upcoming national elections as blows to Iraq's insurgents, the guerrilla fighters look as deadly as ever, carrying out ambushes and bombings seemingly at will.

Since last Friday, dozens of Iraqis, many of them police and national guardsmen, and 13 Americans have been killed in attacks throughout the country. Another 70 Iraqis have died in Mosul during the past two weeks in what appears to be a campaign to intimidate Iraqi security forces.

There is no comprehensive way to quantify how rebel activity has been affected nationwide by the Fallujah assault. American officials no longer make available to reporters a daily tally of the number of incidents reported around the country.

U.S. deaths so far are lower than the November pace. But November featured the Fallujah assault, making that month the deadliest since the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003. Military officers see little change in guerrilla tactics, however.

"We haven't seen any recent difference in insurgent organization or tactics in our (area)," said 1st Lt. Wayne Adkins, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, who said violence was down in the area the division oversees, stretching from north of Baghdad to north of Tikrit. "They are using the same intimidation tactics against Iraqis you see elsewhere in Iraq."

There are some bright spots. The once-volatile Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City is largely quiet now, thanks to a cease-fire between American troops and the militia of renegade cleric Muqtada al Sadr.

But every day is filled with multiple attacks, a review of the past week shows:

_Friday: Hooded insurgents overran a police station near downtown Baghdad, executing 16 officers and wounding 10 others before freeing dozens of prisoners. A car bomb hit a Shiite Muslim mosque in the Sunni Muslim Baghdad neighborhood of Adhamiya, killing at least 14 Iraqis and injuring 19.

To the north, gunmen attacked three police stations in Mosul.

An American soldier was killed north of Baghdad by a roadside bomb, another was killed near the northern town of Kirkuk and two Marines died in the western province of al Anbar, which includes Fallujah.

_ Saturday: A suicide car bomber killed seven Kurdish militiamen in Mosul. Six policemen died in a car bombing near a police station outside the U.S. "Green Zone," where the U.S. embassy is.

American casualties included one dead and five wounded in a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad; one dead when two bombs detonated near her convoy in Baqouba; and two dead and four wounded in Mosul when their vehicle was ambushed.

_ Sunday: Insurgents ambushed an Iraqi army convoy outside Samarra, north of Baghdad, killing one soldier and wounding four others. A car bomb in nearby Beiji killed three Iraqi national guardsmen and wounded 18. In Tikrit, gunmen sprayed a bus filled with Iraqi civilians headed to work for the U.S. military at a munitions dump, killing 17 and wounding 13.

Three American soldiers were killed in al Anbar province, and one was killed in Habbaniyah, also to the west of the capital.

_ Monday: At least one Iraqi was killed by gunmen roaming downtown Baghdad looking for Iraqis who worked with the U.S. occupation. American forces battled insurgents at Haditha, a town near the Syrian border. Three insurgents were reported killed, but there was no word on American casualties.

_ Tuesday: Insurgents bombed two churches in Mosul, wounding three people. A roadside bomb killed three national guardsmen and wounded 11 outside Jebala, a town south of Baghdad. A U.S. soldier was shot to death on a patrol in Baghdad.

On Wednesday, gunmen battled American troops in Ramadi and fought with Iraqi police in Samarra, where a suicide bomber attacked a U.S. convoy. In Baghdad, two American soldiers were slightly wounded when a car bomb struck their patrol.

Iraqis remain divided along sectarian lines over how long the insurgency will persist and whether January's parliamentary elections will help or hurt, with Sunnis offering a pessimistic view and Shiites, Iraq's majority, a more optimistic one.

"We're expecting that the wave of violence and terrorism will be reduced because the terrorists are getting weaker day by day," said Ali al Alaq, spokesman for Dawa, the powerful Shiite political party. "The elections will only further that because the Iraqis will be able to control and protect their land and their borders better than the occupational forces, which have proven a failure in doing that."

Iyad al-Izzi, a senior member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a main Sunni party, disagreed sharply.

"A large sector of Iraq's society will not vote, and this may create the feeling inside them that the elected assembly and the coming government are illegitimate," he said. "It may also create a feeling that a specific ethnic group is pushing against other groups, which will increase the tension in our society toward a civil war, may God forbid it. That's what we're afraid of."

Many Iraqis have become used to the violence. Nearly every morning, Mohammed Raad, 20, finds bodies outside his grocery store in central Baghdad, left from early-morning battles between insurgents and Iraqi and American troops.

He doubts elections will calm his neighborhood.

"The security situation will not get better, no even in 100 years," he said. "What can I do? I stay in my shop, I do not go out and I depend on God."

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(Knight Ridder special correspondents Omar Jassim and Yasser al Salihee contributed to this report from Baghdad.)

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(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Iraq

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