Baghdad Toll Nears 200 as Insurgent Strikes Continue

Friends and relatives mourn beside the coffin of Adnan Mohammed, 20, a policeman killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in the northern city of Kirkuk.
Friends and relatives mourn beside the coffin of Adnan Mohammed, 20, a policeman killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in the northern city of Kirkuk. (By Yahya Ahmed -- Associated Press)
By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, September 16, 2005

BAGHDAD, Sept. 15 -- Insurgents believed to be allied to Abu Musab Zarqawi's group al Qaeda in Iraq kept up bombings in the capital on Thursday, launching strikes that brought the two-day death toll here to more than 190.

The top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, said the surge in bombings represented the kind of occasional spikes in attacks that the military has been expecting. Lynch told reporters, "Zarqawi is on the ropes.''

Three car bombs in a western neighborhood of the capital killed four Iraqi postal workers and 17 police commandos, police and Interior Ministry officials said. Iraqi and U.S. leaders have identified the commandos as Iraq's front line against the insurgency.

Meanwhile, one policeman was killed in a gun battle with insurgents and another officer was found handcuffed and shot in the head, news agencies said. The bodies of seven unidentified men were found in spots around the capital, blindfolded with their hands tied.

Insurgents also managed to land a single mortar round inside the Green Zone, the base for U.S. officials and Iraq's government. There were no casualties and only minimal damage, U.S. officials said.

A day earlier, at least 14 car bombs across Baghdad killed more than 160 people, the majority of them Shiite Muslim civilians -- the war's highest toll for deaths inflicted by insurgent attacks in the capital.

An audiotape released on an al Qaeda-linked Web site after Wednesday's attacks said Zarqawi's group had opened "all-out war'' on Iraq's Shiite majority. The voice sounded the same as that heard in previous, authenticated statements from Zarqawi's group.

Alleged al Qaeda attacks on Thursday also hit the city of Ramadi, capital of the western province of Anbar, a stronghold of foreign-led fighters. Witnesses said al Qaeda-allied fighters rocketed and shelled two U.S. military installations at Ramadi and traded fire with U.S. patrols in the city.

The U.S. military reported one Marine killed in the fighting at Ramadi and said a would-be car bomber also was killed. Iraqi emergency medical workers said Marine snipers killed six al Qaeda fighters.

The two-day barrage of attacks attributed to al Qaeda in Iraq, and the increasing control of towns in the west along the Euphrates River being asserted by foreign-led insurgents, intensified the U.S. military's focus on Zarqawi.

American commanders often have publicly denigrated Zarqawi's role in the insurgency to little more than that of a media-fostered figurehead. On Thursday, however, Lynch discussed Zarqawi in some of the sharpest terms yet, calling him the Americans' main target and saying the United States was winning the fight against him.

"We believe we are experiencing great success against the most crucial element of the insurgency, which is the terrorists and the foreign fighters. The face of that is Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq,'' Lynch said.

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