Iraq Can Handle Security, Premier Says

By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 15, 2007

BAGHDAD, July 14 -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saturday that the Iraqi military and police are capable of maintaining security "any time" the Americans want to leave the country.

He acknowledged, however, that Iraqi forces need more training and weapons.

"The government is serious about increasing the numbers of troops, training them, rehabilitating them and buying weapons so that they can be more capable of holding the security file the moment the multinational forces decide to reduce their numbers or to withdraw from Iraq," Maliki said at a news conference in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, at least 11 people were killed in car bombings across the capital Saturday.

Seven people were killed and 15 injured when a car bomb exploded near a line of vehicles outside a gas station in the Karrada neighborhood of central Baghdad, Iraqi police said. The attack comes less than a week after another car bomb killed six people in Karrada, a Shiite district considered one of Baghdad's safest neighborhoods.

Police said another car bomb blast flattened an apartment building Saturday morning in al-Amil, a largely Shiite neighborhood of southern Baghdad, killing at least two people and injuring 12, including seven police officers. A minibus parked outside the building had been packed with explosives, police said.

Two Iraqi civilians were killed and five injured when a car bomb exploded in the Rustafa neighborhood of eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

The U.S. military reported that one soldier was killed and another wounded by an armor-penetrating roadside bomb that detonated near a military convoy in eastern Baghdad. Another soldier was killed in a land mine explosion, though it was unclear where. The soldiers were not identified.

Continuing a pattern of what is believed to be sectarian warfare, 23 bodies were found in various neighborhoods in Baghdad, police said. The victims, including four women, had been tortured and shot in the head.

Eight Shiite men were killed when gunmen stormed their house in the largely Sunni town of Jebala, about 40 miles south of Baghdad, police said.

The military announced that troops had captured a "senior leader" of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the group U.S. officials say is their primary enemy in the country. The military alleges that the man operated a network of insurgent cells in and around Mosul, about 220 miles north of Baghdad.

At least six suspected insurgents were killed in a U.S. airstrike in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, the military said. Military forces were targeting a suspected weapons dealer south of Baqubah, the provincial capital, when gunmen began firing from nearby buildings. The military said the airstrike was necessary to protect women and children the gunmen were using as shields.

Special correspondent Saad al-Izzi contributed to this report.

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