Suicide Bombing Kills 12 in Baghdad

The Associated Press
Friday, April 20, 2007; 1:54 AM

BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber slipped past security barriers to kill 12 people Thursday, the latest in a wave of attacks that have shown the resilience of insurgents in the face of a U.S.-led crackdown on major violence in Iraq's capital.

The attack in a mostly Shiite district showed yet again the ability of insurgents to penetrate Baghdad's heavy security presence, a day after more than 230 people died in the worst spasm of mass killings since President Bush announced his plan in January to increase American troop levels in Iraq by 30,000.

Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said an "open battle" was being waged for control of his nation.

Thursday's attacker blew himself up next to a fuel tanker within 500 yards of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's home in the Karradah district. Talabani, a Kurd, was not believed to have been the target. Two Iraqi soldiers were among the dead, and 34 people were wounded, police said.

U.S. commanders urged patience, saying the nine-week operation was still just beginning. Three of the five brigades Bush ordered into Iraq to stem Baghdad violence have arrived, bringing the U.S. forces in the country to 146,000. Officials want the rest in place by June for a total of 160,000.

But already insurgents have exploited the operation's vulnerabilities. One week ago, a suicide bomber penetrated several layers of security to hit inside parliament, in the heart of U.S.-guarded Green Zone, killing an Iraqi lawmaker. The same day, a truck bomber collapsed a more than 50-year-old bridge, killing 11 people and sending cars careening into the Tigris River.

At the Pentagon, a top general predicted the pattern was likely to continue.

"We saw an initial drop in their (militants') activity" after the start of the Baghdad security operation, said Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero, an operations official for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "And now lately, we've seen an increase _ the bridge, this.... It's action on our part and now we're seeing the reaction on their part. And it will be like that until we can defeat these forces."

Anthony Cordesman, an Iraq expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, called the dramatic breaches of security "exercises in symbolism more than terror."

"What they're really designed to do is to show Iraq, the region, the U.S. Congress that (the Baghdad security clampdown) is not working," he said.

Cordesman said such bombings can never be fully prevented in urban areas.

"People have gotten the impression that we can make (a city) leakproof," Cordesman said. "We can't do it there; we can't do it here."

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