Attacks Across Baghdad Kill at Least 25
Monday, July 16, 2007
BAGHDAD, July 15 -- At least 25 people were killed Sunday in attacks across Baghdad, police said, including 10 killed in a car-bomb blast in a busy commercial area.
The explosion injured at least 25 people and severely damaged several restaurants and shops in the Jadriya neighborhood near Hussein Square, not far from the office of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the country's largest Shiite party.
Meanwhile, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said that Shiite militia members continue to infiltrate Iraqi police units but that the number of insurgents in the police force is "decreasing every day."
"There is a certain element of the Iraqi security forces and, in particular, the Iraqi police, that have had issues related to loyalty," Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox said at a news conference in the Green Zone. Iraqi civilians are "turning against the extremists" and helping U.S. troops drive them out of the police force, he said.
Fox's comments came two days after U.S. soldiers killed six Iraqi police officers in a rare street battle between the countries' security forces. The clash began when U.S. troops were fired upon from a police checkpoint as they moved in to arrest a police lieutenant thought to be a high-level operative in a Shiite militia.
Fox called the incident "clear, unambiguous evidence that there are steps that are being taken" to eliminate the infiltration of the police force. Brig. Gen. Qassim Atta, the chief Iraqi spokesman for the Baghdad security plan, said the Iraqi Interior Ministry has fired more than 14,000 police employees, many because of questions about their loyalty.
Atta and Fox also said the Iraqi military and police force need more time before they are capable of assuming control of the country's security. On Saturday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Iraqis were ready to take over security operations "any time" American forces choose to leave, a comment Atta said was only a general observation.
"This needs time, but it is much better than it was a year ago," he said.
Also Sunday, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of a U.S. offensive southeast of Baghdad and in three southern provinces where 15,000 U.S. troops are operating, said attacks on civilians were down 20 percent and civilian deaths had declined 55 percent since April.
Still, Lynch said, at least seven additional Iraqi army battalions and five Iraqi police units were needed to secure and hold areas that have been cleared of extremists.
"There is a void of Iraqi security forces right now, and we are filling that void with coalition forces," he said. "But coalition forces aren't going to stay here forever."
The shortfall of Iraqi troops, Lynch said, has forced his ground commanders to recruit a volunteer force of residents who protect their own homes.