The appalling statistics continue to come in from Iraq. -- On Wednesday, in what was "the deadliest day in the city since the start of the U.S.-Iraqi campaign to pacify the capital two months ago," "[f]our large bombs exploded in mostly Shiite areas of Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 178 people and wounding scores." -- U.S. officials continued to take the absurd position that the violence being wreaked in Baghdad was somehow symbolic rather than real. -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates, for example, on a visit to Israel, said that the U.S. had anticipated that "insurgents" would "attempt to increase the violence in order to make the plan a failure or to make the people of Iraq believe the plan is a failure." -- In other words, except for the appalling insecurity it has produced, the security crackdown is a great success. -- AP relied on police sources; Bloomberg News relied on President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan for somewhat lower totals based on the party's Web site. -- The Washington Post's statistics were lower still, being based on U.S. military sources. -- Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell spoke of "inspiring progress" but admitted there was "too much evidence that we still face many grave challenges. We've always said securing Baghdad would not be easy." -- In fact, as UFPPC's statements over the years reflect, it has been clear since the spring of 2004, three years ago, that the U.S. military does not have the capacity to "secure" Baghdad or Iraq, and that the presence of massive numbers of U.S. troops there is only exacerbating the situation....
4 BOMBS KILL 178 PEOPLE IN BAGHDAD
By Sinan Salaheddin
April 18, 2007
BAGHDAD -- Four large bombs exploded in mostly Shiite areas of Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 178 people and wounding scores -- the deadliest day in the city since the start of the U.S.-Iraqi campaign to pacify the capital two months ago.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the bombings "horrifying" and accused al-Qaida of being behind them.
In the deadliest of the attacks, a parked car bomb detonated in a crowd of workers at the Sadriyah market in central Baghdad, killing at least 122 people and wounding 148, said Raad Muhsin, an official at Al-Kindi Hospital where the victims were taken.
A police official confirmed the toll, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Among the dead were several construction workers who had been rebuilding the mostly Shiite marketplace after a bombing destroyed many shops and killed 137 people there in February, the police official said.
The laborers typically finish work around 4 p.m. each day. One of those wounded, 28-year-old Salih Mustafa, said he was waiting for a minibus to head home when the blast went off at 4:05 p.m.
"I rushed with others to give a hand and help the victims," he said. "I saw three bodies in a wooden cart, and civilian cars were helping to transfer the victims. It was really a horrible scene."
The market is situated on a side street lined with shops and vendors selling produce, meat, and other staples. It is also about 500 yards from a Sunni shrine.
About an hour earlier, a suicide car bomber crashed into an Iraqi police checkpoint at an entrance to Sadr City, the capital's biggest Shiite Muslim neighborhood and a stronghold for the militia led by radical anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The explosion killed at least 41 people, including five Iraqi security officers, and wounded 76, police and hospital officials said.
Black smoke billowed from a jumble of at least eight incinerated vehicles that were in a jam of cars stopped at the checkpoint. Bystanders scrambled over twisted metal to drag victims from the smoldering wreckage as Iraqi guards staggered around stunned.
Earlier, a parked car exploded near a private hospital in the central neighborhood of Karradah, killing 11 people and wounding 13, police said. The blast damaged the Abdul-Majid hospital and other nearby buildings.
The fourth explosion was from a bomb left on a minibus in the central Rusafi area, area, killing four people and wounding six others, police said.
U.S. officials had cited a slight decrease in sectarian killings in Baghdad since the U.S.-Iraqi crackdown was launched Feb. 14. But the past week has seen several spectacular attacks on the capital, including a suicide bombing inside parliament and a powerful blast that collapsed a landmark bridge across the Tigris River.
In Israel, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the military had anticipated that al-Qaida terrorists and other insurgents "would attempt to increase the violence in order to make the plan a failure or to make the people of Iraq believe the plan is a failure."
"Obviously the level of fatalities today is a horrifying thing. But I think it illustrates another point: These terrorists are killing innocent men, women and children who are Iraqis. They're killing their countrymen," he said at a news conference in Tel Aviv with his Israeli counterpart, Amir Peretz.
Meanwhile, to the west of the city, U.S. troops killed five suspected insurgents and captured 30 others in a raid in Anbar province, a day after police uncovered 17 decomposing corpses beneath two school yards in the provincial capital.
The raid took place early Wednesday near Karmah, a town northeast of Fallujah in Anbar, which has been a stronghold for Sunni insurgents.
American forces raided a group of buildings suspected of being used by militants and found explosives inside one of them, the military said in a statement. A helicopter was called in and dropped precision-guided bombs on the buildings, it said.
The soldiers came under fire and shot back, killing five Iraqis and wounding four others, the statement said. The wounded were taken to a military hospital and remained in U.S. custody. Twenty-six other people were detained as well, the military said.
The bodies found a day earlier at school yards in Ramadi, Anbar's provincial capital, were discovered after students and teachers returned to the schools a week ago and noticed an increasingly putrid odor and stray dogs digging in the area, police Maj. Laith al-Dulaimi said.
Ramadi had been a stronghold of Sunni insurgents and al-Qaida fighters until recently, when U.S. forces in the region and the Iraqi government successfully negotiated with many local tribal leaders to split them off from the more militant insurgent groups.
The U.S. military also reported that a suspected insurgent was killed and eight captured in two raids north of Baghdad on Wednesday. Some of the suspects were believed linked to al-Qaida in Iraq and to a militant cell that has used chlorine in car bombings, the statement said.
Separately, U.S. officials announced that last week they found 3,000 gallons of nitric acid hidden in a warehouse in downtown Baghdad. U.S. forces discovered the acid, a key fertilizer component that can also be used in explosives, during a routine search Thursday, the military said.
Iraqi troops also took charge of security Wednesday in the southern province of Maysan, a region that borders Iran and the fourth province to come under full Iraqi security control since the 2003 U.S. invasion.
A ceremony was held in Maysan's provincial capital of Amarah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, and was attended by senior Iraqi and coalition officials including Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie and the British commander in southern Iraq, Maj. Gen. Jonathan Shaw.
Al-Rubaie said that in order for a timetable to be set for the withdrawal of foreign troops, Iraqi forces and local authorities have to be ready to take over. He was apparently referring to calls by some Sunni Arab groups and al-Sadr's Shiite followers to set a timetable for a pullout.
"We should work to create these circumstances in all provinces, in order to revert security to Iraqis and end the foreign presence," said al-Rubaie, who represented Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the commander in chief of Iraq's armed forces.
Al-Maliki was supposed to attend the ceremony but his trip was canceled without explanation.
BAGHDAD CAR-BOMB ATTACKS KILL AT LEAST 166 PEOPLE
By Robin Stringer
April 18, 2007
Car bombings in Baghdad killed at least 166 people in the worst violence in the capital since the U.S. military began a troop "surge" two months ago aimed at ending attacks.
A car bomb at a market in the mainly Shiite Muslim district of al-Sadriyah killed at least 127 people and wounded more than 100 others, President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said in a statement on the party's Web site. The same market was targeted on Feb. 3. in a suicide truck bombing that killed at least 130 people and injured 305.
President George W. Bush ordered almost 30,000 more soldiers and Marines to Iraq to join Iraqi troops to bring security to the capital and the neighboring western province of al-Anbar. The violence has included sectarian attacks by rival Shiite and Sunni Muslim factions and the targeting of coalition and Iraqi forces by insurgents.
Earlier today, a car bomb killed at least 30 people near an Iraqi army checkpoint in the Shiite Sadr City area in eastern Baghdad, Talabani's party said. Another car bomb in the central Karrada district killed nine people and wounded 15, security forces spokesman Brigadier Qasim Ata told state television.
Agence France-Presse reported another seven deaths in two bombings in the center and on the western outskirts of Baghdad.
The high number of deaths in today's attacks is "a horrifying thing," U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said at a news conference with Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz in Tel Aviv on a tour that has included stops in Jordan and Egypt.
"I think it's important to highlight their efforts to interrupt the process of reconciliation, to try and prove the Baghdad security plan a failure and we intend to persist to show it is not," Gates said of the bombers. "We can only hope that the Shia will have the confidence in their government and in the coalition that we will go after the people that perpetrated this horror," he said of the carnage in Shiite neighborhoods.
In southern Iraq today, National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said the country's forces will assume control of all 18 provinces by the end of the year.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the handover of the southern province of Maysan by U.K. forces, al-Rubaie said three provinces in the Kurdish north will be transferred to Iraqi control next month, followed by the southern governorates of Karbala and Wasit. The ceremony was aired on state television.
BAGHDAD BOMBINGS KILL AT LEAST 131
By Karin Brulliard and Bill Brubaker
April 18, 2007
BAGHDAD -- Four car bombs killed 131 people and wounded 164 others across Baghdad Wednesday, the U.S. military said, as bloodshed spiked two months into a U.S.-led crackdown meant to placate the Iraqi capital.
Some news accounts suggested the death toll may be higher. The Reuters news agency, quoting local officials, said as many as 170 people had been killed, and the Associated Press said at least 178 had been killed.
The carnage underscored the profound insecurity that continues to plague the nation, where additional American soldiers are being deployed in an attempt to curb sectarian violence.
The attacks came as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pledged to have Iraqi troops assume full security control of the nation's 18 provinces by the end of the year, news services reported.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, on a tour of the Mideast, called the bombings "horrifying" and accused al-Qaeda of being behind the attacks, the AP reported. He said the attackers were trying to demonstrate that the U.S. security plan for Baghdad was failing.
"These terrorists are killing innocent men, women and children who are Iraqis. They're killing their countrymen," Gates said at a news conference in Tel Aviv.
In Washington, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the bombings underscore there is an "extremely difficult and dangerous situation right now in Iraq."
"I don't have an official death count, but obviously it is entirely too high," she said. "Every life is precious. That includes all the innocent Iraqis."
Later, speaking about a recent spike in attacks on U.S. service members, Perino said: "The enemy knows how determined we are, and they are just as determined. And I think anybody who thinks that this enemy is tired, they are mistaken. They are a very determined enemy."
The deadliest attack Wednesday occurred when a car bomb ripped through the Sadriyah market in a predominantly Shiite area of central Baghdad, killing 115 Iraqis and wounding 137 others, the U.S. military said in a statement. The blast also damaged 40 vehicles. The same market was the site of a Feb. 3 bombing that killed more than 125 people, the gravest single bombing since the war in Iraq began.
Adil Awad, a doctor who is director of Kindi Hospital, said there were at least 115 dead from Wednesday's Sadriyah bombings at his hospital, and 126 wounded. He said there were another 15 dead at another hospital.
"We have a disaster now here in the hospital," Awad said in a brief telephone interview. Women could be heard shrieking in the background as he spoke.
Earlier, a suicide bomber slammed into a police checkpoint in the vast Shiite enclave of Sadr City, killing at least 10 people, the U.S. military said.
Two other bombings, near a hospital in the central Baghdad area of Karrada, and Baghdad's West Rashid district, killed at least seven people, including a bomber, the military said. "We've seen both inspiring progress and too much evidence that we still face many grave challenges," Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, U.S. military spokesman, told reporters Wednesday. "We've always said securing Baghdad would not be easy."
In a ceremony Wednesday morning, the Iraqi government took military control of the southern province of Maysan, the fourth province to be transferred to Iraqi security forces since the 2003 invasion.
Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, delivered a speech on behalf of Maliki, who pledged to take security control of the nation from foreign forces by the end of 2007.
"[It] will be province by province until we achieve [this transfer] before the end of the year," Rubaie said, according to news services. Six ministers loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr quit the government on Monday, citing Maliki's failure to call for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
In a joint statement, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, British Ambassador Dominic Asquith and Gen. David H. Petraeus said the transfer of control in Maysan "reflects Iraq's continued steps toward a capability to govern and protect itself and its citizens as a sovereign nation."
The multiple bombings on Wednesday come a week after a suicide bombing at the Iraqi parliament, inside the highly protected Green Zone.
--Brubaker reported from Washington.