Increased violence continues in Iraq

BAGHDAD — A recent jump in violence across Iraq continued Wednesday, with at least 16 people killed and 45 wounded in various attacks, including seven involving improvised bombs. More than 55 people were killed and more than 110 were wounded on Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said the attacks were part of what's become an annual increase in violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends this weekend. He said the attacks were mounted mainly by al Qaida in Iraq, which he said is trying to reverse a growing movement among fellow Sunni Muslims who are turning against it.

"This spike in violence largely targets those it sees as most threatening to it — Iraqi security force leaders, concerned local citizens and other local citizens in areas that are in the process of rejecting al Qaida," he said.

As Ramadan began, the terrorist group vowed that it would target Sunnis who turned against it or worked with U.S. troops or the Iraqi government.

In Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, gunmen attacked the chief of the National Information and Investigation Bureau, Gen. Abdulameer Mahmoud. He and two of his bodyguards were injured.

Also in Kirkuk, police responding to the discovery of a body were attacked with a roadside bomb that killed one officer and injured two. A second patrol sent to help was attacked by small-arms fire.

In central Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, a car bomb detonated as a convoy passed containing the security chief of Salahuddin province. Ten people were killed, including at least two of his guards, and 17 were injured.

In Baghdad, two bombs left one dead and four wounded, and gunmen attacked two buses. An attack on a minibus killed one person and injured six, and one person was killed and five were wounded when a bus filled with employees of the railway commission was attacked as it passed under a bridge.

A suicide bomber driving a minibus rammed the offices of the Kurdish Democratic Party near the northern city of Mosul. Police said that at least two people were killed, including a party official, and five were wounded.

Coalition troops operating west of Baghdad reporting killing 13 terrorists Wednesday, including one wearing a suicide bomb. The dead were suspected of belonging to a car bombing network, according to a news release.

Bergner said the attacks would only turn more people against the terrorists.

Also Wednesday, the officer who oversees all U.S. detention facilities in Iraq said that they now contain about 25,000 detainees, about 10,000 more than they did a year ago. The increase was expected, said Maj. Gen Doug Stone, because of the U.S. troop surge in Iraq, which began last February.

More than 83 percent of the prisoners are Sunnis, and all but a handful of the rest are Shiites. About 280 are from countries other than Iraq, including Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

About a third of the detainees had signed up for the elementary school classes that the U.S. detention facilities offer. So many had sought classes that there weren't enough qualified teachers available, and jailers drafted more than 170 detainees to help who were qualified to teach, Stone said.

(McClatchy special correspondent Sahar Issa contributed to this story. Price writes for The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.)


News releases from the Multi-National Force in Iraq.

The transcript of Wednesday's press briefing by Maj. Gens. Bergner and Stone.