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History > 2008 > USA > Wars > Iraq (II)




An Iraqi man, injured in a bombing at a pet market,

at a hospital in Baghdad on Friday.


Photograph: Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images


Dozens Killed in Worst Baghdad Attack in Months

















Iraqi Presidency

Clears Execution of ‘Chemical Ali’


February 29, 2008
Filed at 6:00 a.m. ET
The New York Times


BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq's presidential council has endorsed the execution within a month of Saddam Hussein's cousin, known as ''Chemical Ali,'' for his role in the 1980s scorched-earth campaign against Kurds, officials said Friday. But it spared the life of two other officials amid Sunni protests that they were only following orders.

The approval by Iraq's President Jalal Talabani and two vice presidents was the final step clearing the way for Ali Hassan al-Majid's execution by hanging. It could now be carried out at any time, a government adviser and a prosecutor said.

Al-Majid was one of three former Saddam officials sentenced to death in June after being convicted by an Iraqi court of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for their part in the Operation Anfal crackdown that killed nearly 200,000 Kurdish civilians and guerrillas.

Al-Majid was nicknamed ''Chemical Ali'' for ordering poison gas attacks that killed thousands.

The officials said the three-member presidential council agreed to al-Majid's execution, but did not approve death sentences against the other two -- Hussein Rashid Mohammed, an ex-deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces, and former defense minister Sultan Hashim al-Taie.

The fate of the men -- who are in U.S. custody -- had been in legal limbo since this summer and the decision could represent a compromise to ease Sunni objections to executing al-Taie, widely viewed as a respected career soldier who was forced to follow Saddam's orders in the purges against Kurds.

Al-Majid would be the fifth former regime official hanged for alleged atrocities against Iraqis during Saddam's nearly three-decade rule.

Saddam, who also had been a defendant in the so-called Anfal trial, was hanged Dec. 30, 2006, for ordering the killings of more than 140 Shiite Muslims from the Iraqi city of Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt against him.

A government adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information, said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. officials had been informed of the decision by phone and that a meeting was planned to decide when and where the execution should take place.

A senior U.S. military official said the military was aware the order had been signed, and that the date for the execution would be determined by the Iraqi government.

The other two men remain in U.S. custody but are under the jurisdiction of the Iraqi government, the official said, declining to be identified ahead of an official announcement.

Prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi, who said he had received word of the decision from the presidential council, said there was a legal basis for the execution of ''Chemical Ali'' but not of the other two.

He said no law existed that could force the presidential council to endorse the execution of all three, so it had the prerogative to just sign off on one of the orders.

An appeals court upheld the verdicts against the three in September. Under Iraqi law the executions were to have taken place within a month. But they were put on hold after Sunni leaders including Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi launched a campaign to spare the life of al-Taie.

President Jalal Talabani, himself a Kurd, had also refused to sign the order against al-Taie, a Sunni Arab from the northern city of Mosul who signed the cease-fire with U.S.-led forces that ended the 1991 Gulf War.

Al-Taie surrendered to U.S. forces in September 2003 after weeks of negotiations. His defense has claimed the Americans had promised al-Taie ''protection and good treatment'' before he turned himself in.

Many Sunni Arabs saw his sentence as evidence that Shiite and Kurdish officials are persecuting their once-dominant minority and as a sign of Shiite influence over the judiciary, raising concerns the executions could ignite retaliatory sectarian attacks.

The case also strained relations between al-Maliki's Shiite-led government and U.S. officials. In late November, the Shiite prime minister asked President Bush to hand over ''Chemical Ali'' and the other two former regime officials.

The officials said al-Hashemi had refused to agree to the executions of the other two because he considered them career soldiers following orders.

There have been few calls for leniency, however, regarding al-Majid.

Saddam's half-brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, were hanged in January 2007.

Saddam's former vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, had been sentenced to life in prison for his role in Dujail but was executed in March after the court decided this was too lenient. Three other defendants were sentenced to 15 years in jail in the Dujail case, while one was acquitted.


Associated Press writer Bushra Juhi and Kim Gamel contributed to this report.

    Iraqi Presidency Clears Execution of ‘Chemical Ali’, NYT, 29.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Iraq-Execution.html?hp

















A woman wept on the floor of a Baquba hospital morgue

near the coffin of a relative on Sunday.


Agence France-Presse/Getty Images


Suicide Bomber Kills 40 at Iraq Highway Rest Stop        NYT        25.2.2008
















Suicide Bomber Kills 40 at Iraq Highway Rest Stop


February 25, 2008
The New York Times


BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber on Sunday attacked a crowd of Shiite pilgrims heading toward the city of Karbala to visit the Shrine of Imam Hussein, killing at least 40 people and wounding at least 100, Iraqi officials said. The American military said that at least 60 people had been wounded.

The attack occurred at a rest station for pilgrims along a highway on the outskirts of Iskandariya, 45 miles south of Baghdad.

In northern Iraq, on the third day of a Turkish military incursion to pursue Kurdish insurgents, eight Turkish soldiers were killed in fighting, the Turkish military said.

Witnesses to the suicide bombing said they heard a shrill cry of “God is great” just before a huge explosion ripped through the throng of pilgrims. Two witnesses said they believed that the bomber was a woman, though security officials did not immediately announce the sex or identity of the assailant.

“There was a big, huge sound of the explosion,” said Salman Khadem, 45, who was serving pilgrims who stopped to perform midday prayers or to picnic at a volunteer tent.

“Flesh and blood went everywhere, bodies were flying in the air,” he said, adding that most were women and children, local volunteers serving the pilgrims.

Hot shrapnel cut across Mr. Khadem’s leg, but he said he was still able to assist the wounded and drove one boy to a hospital in the city of Hilla, which is also nearby.

American forces quickly descended on the scene after the explosion, witnesses said. But some complained that the Iraqi security forces were not attentive enough to the long stretch of highway through a region called the “triangle of death,” a predominately Sunni Arab area where sectarian clashes have claimed hundreds of lives since 2003.

Shiites were on pilgrimage to commemorate the 40th day after the killing of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, by the Sunni caliphate army around A.D. 680.

Lying on a gurney in Hilla General Hospital, Ahmed Yassin, 28, said that he was ushering pilgrims into the tent along with his group of youth volunteers, which organizes the rest area every year for the thousands who make the journey.

“I was a couple of meters away from where they were searching people at the entrance of the tent,” he said. About 50 volunteers were standing outside the shelter and more were inside finishing their meals and prayers before restarting their slow march southward, he said.

Mr. Yassin said he believed that the suicide bomber took advantage of the time of day, just after prayers, and the large crowd that had gathered there. Their shelter is one of the few available to pilgrims in the predominately Sunni region, he said, and therefore was unusually crowded.

“I saw a woman rush into the tent,” said Mr. Yassin. “Then there was an explosion and I went unconscious.”

Mr. Yassin’s face was streaked with blood and he spoke in a weak voice. Before he could finish his account, doctors wheeled his gurney into an operating room.

Another wounded volunteer, Fadel Khadhim, 23, said, “The smell of burned flesh is still stuck in my nose.”

Casualties were taken to at least three overwhelmed hospitals in the area, where medical officials said they did not have enough supplies or doctors to treat them.

The bombing was at least the second attack against Shiite pilgrims on Sunday. In the morning attackers threw grenades along the pilgrims’ route in Dora, a Baghdad suburb that was the scene of several horrific massacres and mass kidnappings two years ago, but has recently calmed down. The attack killed at least one person and wounded at least 17 others, the American military said.

The Iskandariya bombing was the largest attack since two suicide bombing attacks at the beginning of February, one at a Baghdad pet market, and the other in the New Baghdad neighborhood, that killed at least 90 people.

Two soldiers were killed in Baghdad on Sunday, one from small-arms fire, the other from a roadside bomb, the American military said. The military also announced that a suspected insurgent had been killed and four others detained in Baghdad on Sunday.

In northern Iraq, a car bomb exploded outside of a volunteer militia office in Hawaja, killing one militia leader and wounding at least 12 others who are part of the Awakening movement, in which thousands of predominately Sunni tribesmen have turned against insurgents and allied themselves with the American military. Awakening members have been targets of the insurgents for months.

In the fighting in northern Iraq, Turkish artillery and helicopters struck Kurdish militant positions, bringing the total number of casualties to 15 Turkish soldiers and more than 112 Kurdish fighters since the fighting began on Thursday, the military said.

The Turkish military, equipped with sophisticated weaponry and American-produced fighter jets, has the upper hand, but the Kurdish fighters, the Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the P.K.K., have used their intimate knowledge of the terrain to evade attacks. The rebels also scored some of their own victories, claiming to have shot down a Turkish helicopter on Friday.

The military acknowledged that a helicopter had gone down, but said the reason for the crash was unknown.

Turkey began an intermittent bombing campaign against the rebel group in December. The group wants greater rights for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, but is considered a terrorist organization by Turkish and American officials.

The bombings, however, are upsetting some Iraqis, who consider them a violation of sovereignty. The office of Moktada al-Sadr, a militant Shiite cleric with millions of followers and one of Iraq’s largest armed militias, issued a statement on Sunday calling on the Turkish government to withdraw its forces.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey reiterated that the purpose of the ground operation was to weaken the rebel group.

“The target is the P.K.K. and nothing else,” said Ozdem Sanberk, a former Turkish ambassador. “There isn’t any intention to obtain territorial gains from this.”

Solomon Moore reported from Baghdad and Sabrina Tavernise from Turkey. Mudhafer al-Husaini and Iraqi employees of The New York Times in Hilla and Dohuk contributed reporting.

    Suicide Bomber Kills 40 at Iraq Highway Rest Stop, NYT, 25.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/25/world/middleeast/25iraq.html






Suicide Bomber Kills 25 Near Baghdad


February 24, 2008
Filed at 8:14 a.m. ET
The New York Times


BAGHDAD (AP) -- A suicide bomber struck Shiite pilgrims Sunday on a highway south of Baghdad, killing at least 25 people and wounding 20, police said.

The blast occurred in Iskandariyah, police said. The pilgrims were marching south toward Karbala to commemorate Arbaeen, the 40th day following the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, one of two major Shiite figures who is buried in the holy city.

It was the second attack against Shiite pilgrims.

Earlier Sunday, pilgrims were attacked by grenades and small-arms fire in the predominantly Sunni Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, leaving at least three dead and 36 wounded, police said.

Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of the capital, was one of the main cities in an area dubbed the triangle of death for much of the U.S.-led war. But it has seen a recent decline in violence that the U.S. military attributes to a Sunni movement against al-Qaida in Iraq as well as an influx of American troops.

    Suicide Bomber Kills 25 Near Baghdad, NYT, 24.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Iraq.html






Study Faults Delay of Armored Trucks for Iraq


February 17, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of United States marines may have been killed or wounded by roadside bombs in Iraq because Marine Corps officials refused an urgent request in 2005 from battlefield commanders for blast-resistant vehicles, an internal military study concludes.

The study, written by a civilian Marine Corps official, accuses the service of “gross mismanagement” in delaying the deliveries of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks for more than two years.

Maj. Manuel Delarosa, a Marine Corps spokesman, called the study “predecisional staff work” and said it would be inappropriate to comment on it.

Cost was a driving factor in the decision to turn down the request for the vehicles, known as MRAPs, according to the study. Authorities in the United States saw the vehicles, which can cost as much as $1 million each, as a financial threat to programs aimed at developing lighter vehicles that were years from being fielded.

After Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates declared the MRAP the Pentagon’s No. 1 acquisition priority in May 2007, the trucks began to be shipped to Iraq in large quantities.

The vehicles weigh as much as 40 tons and have been effective at protecting American forces from roadside bombs, the weapon of choice for Iraqi insurgents. Only four American service members have been killed by such bombs while riding in MRAPs; three of those deaths occurred in older versions of the vehicles.

The study’s author, Franz J. Gayl, catalogs what he says were flawed decisions and missteps by midlevel managers in the Marines that occurred well before Mr. Gates replaced Donald H. Rumsfeld in December 2006.

Mr. Gayl, the science and technology adviser to Lt. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, has clashed with his superiors in the past and filed for whistle-blower protection last year.

Among its findings, the Jan. 22 study concluded that budget and procurement managers failed to recognize the damage being done by roadside bombs in late 2004 and early 2005, and were convinced that the best solution was adding more armor to Humvees. Humvees, even with extra layers of steel, proved incapable of blunting the powerful explosives used by insurgents.

The study also found that an urgent February 2005 request for MRAPs got lost in bureaucracy. It was signed by Brig. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, who asked for 1,169 of them. The Marines could not continue to take “serious and grave casualties” caused by roadside bombs when a solution was commercially available, wrote General Hejlik, who was a commander in western Iraq from June 2004 to February 2005, and who has since been promoted to major general.

Mr. Gayl cites documents showing General Hejlik’s request was shuttled to a civilian logistics official at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in suburban Washington who had little experience with military vehicles. As a result, there was more concern over how the MRAP would upset the Marines’ supply and maintenance chains than there was in getting the troops a truck that would keep them alive, the study contends.

The study says Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, was not told of the gravity of General Hejlik’s request and the real reasons it was shelved. That resulted in General Conway giving “inaccurate and incomplete” information to Congress about why buying MRAPs was not forcefully pursued.

The Combat Development Command, which decides what gear to buy, treated the MRAP as an expensive obstacle to long-range plans for equipment that was more mobile and fit into the Marines Corps’ vision as a rapid reaction force, the study said.

Mr. Gayl writes that “if the mass procurement and fielding of MRAPs had begun in 2005” in response to the known and acknowledged threats at that time “hundreds of deaths and injuries could have been prevented.”

    Study Faults Delay of Armored Trucks for Iraq, NYT, 17.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/17/washington/17armor.html






Attacks in Baghdad fall 80 percent: Iraq military


Sat Feb 16, 2008
11:21am EST
By Aws Qusay


BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Attacks by insurgents and rival sectarian militias have fallen up to 80 percent in Baghdad and concrete blast walls that divide the capital could soon be removed, a senior Iraqi military official said on Saturday.

Lieutenant-General Abboud Qanbar said the success of a year-long clampdown named "Operation Imposing Law" had reined in the savage violence between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs dominant under Saddam Hussein.

"In a time when you could hear nothing but explosions, gunfire and the screams of mothers and fathers and sons, and see bodies that were burned and dismembered, the people of Baghdad were awaiting Operation Imposing Law," Qanbar told reporters.

Qanbar pointed to the number of dead bodies turning up on the capital's streets as an indicator of success.

In the six weeks to the end of 2006, an average of 43 bodies were found dumped in the city each day as fierce sectarian fighting threatened to turn into full-scale civil war.

That figure fell to four a day in 2008, in the period up to February 12, said Qanbar, who heads the Baghdad security operation.

"Various enemy activities" had fallen by between 75 and 80 percent since the security plan was implemented, he said.

To demonstrate how life had improved, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki toured parts of the city on Saturday, visiting Iraqi forces and checkpoints.

"He wanted ... to send a message to the terrorists that security in Baghdad is prevailing now," one official said.

Central to the success has been the erection of 12-foot (3.5-meter) high concrete walls that snake across the city.

The walls were designed to stop car bombings blamed on al Qaeda that turned markets and open areas into killing fields.

Qanbar said he hoped the walls could be taken down "in the coming months" and predicted the improved situation in Baghdad would translate to greater security elsewhere.

The U.S. military says attacks have fallen across Iraq by 60 percent since June on the back of security clampdowns and the deployment of 30,000 extra American troops.



Vital to the fall in violence was also a decision by Sunni Arab tribal leaders to turn against Sunni Islamist al Qaeda in late 2006 and form neighborhood security units, which man checkpoints and provide tips on militant hideouts.

However, their relationship with Iraqi authorities remains tense. The Shi'ite-led government is wary of the units, called "concerned local citizens" (CLCs) by the U.S. military and whose ranks includes former Sunni Arab insurgents.

"Everyone should know, that the official security forces represent the country. And it is the one side that has the right to bear arms and impose security," Qanbar said.

In a sign of the tensions, one CLC group said it was suspending its activities after three members were killed in an incident near the town of Jurf al-Sukr, south of Baghdad.

The unit blamed American soldiers for Friday's deaths. The U.S. military said attack helicopters had responded with rockets after security forces came under small-arms fire. It said the incident was under investigation but gave no further details.

The CLCs number some 80,000 mainly Sunni Arabs. Qanbar said Baghdad was working on compensating victims of mistakes by the Iraqi army and multi-national forces in Iraq.

While Iraqi and U.S. officials laud the security gains, humanitarian groups say it is still too early to encourage around 2 million refugees who fled Iraq to return home.

"The plight of Iraqi refugees will end with national reconciliation," the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, told reporters during a visit to Baghdad.

(Additional reporting by Michael Holden, Mohammed Abbas and Ahmed Rasheed, Writing by Mohammed Abbas: Editing by Robert Woodward)

    Attacks in Baghdad fall 80 percent: Iraq military, R, 16.2.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSL1880448320080216






US Says 7 Militants Killed in Iraq Raids


February 15, 2008
Filed at 4:47 a.m. ET
The New York Times


BAGHDAD (AP) -- Raids on al-Qaida forces in northern Iraq have left seven insurgents dead, the U.S. military said. But local police said Friday that two women and two U.S.-allied fighters were among those killed.

The U.S. military said in a statement that one target of the raids late Wednesday and early Thursday was an alleged al-Qaida leader in the Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad. It wasn't clear if he was killed or captured.

According to the military account released Thursday, troops killed two insurgents during a gunbattle in one area, then called in air support, which killed another four fighters. One civilian was wounded and evacuated for further care, while troops detained 15 suspected insurgents.

All those killed were ''terrorists associated'' with al-Qaida in Iraq, said Lt. Michael Street, a military spokesman.

An Iraqi police officer in the area, however, said a house that was bombed belonged to a Sunni Arab and tribal leader, and that six family members died. The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said the bombing occurred about 33 miles southwest of Kirkuk and two of the victims were women.

Another two of those killed, he said, were part of an Awakening Council, one of the Sunni groups that last year abandoned their support for al-Qaida and began joining the U.S. in its effort to clear out insurgent forces.

Separately, in an operation Wednesday in southeast Mosul, the U.S. military said it killed an insurgent wearing a suicide belt who shot at troops as they were targeting the building of an alleged al-Qaida supporter.

    US Says 7 Militants Killed in Iraq Raids, NYT, 15.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Iraq-Raid.html






Army Buried Study Faulting Iraq Planning


February 11, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The Army is accustomed to protecting classified information. But when it comes to the planning for the Iraq war, even an unclassified assessment can acquire the status of a state secret.

That is what happened to a detailed study of the planning for postwar Iraq prepared for the Army by the RAND Corporation, a federally financed center that conducts research for the military.

After 18 months of research, RAND submitted a report in the summer of 2005 called “Rebuilding Iraq.” RAND researchers provided an unclassified version of the report along with a secret one, hoping that its publication would contribute to the public debate on how to prepare for future conflicts.

But the study’s wide-ranging critique of the White House, the Defense Department and other government agencies was a concern for Army generals, and the Army has sought to keep the report under lock and key.

A review of the lengthy report — a draft of which was obtained by The New York Times — shows that it identified problems with nearly every organization that had a role in planning the war. That assessment parallels the verdicts of numerous former officials and independent analysts.

The study chided President Bush — and by implication Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who served as national security adviser when the war was planned — as having failed to resolve differences among rival agencies. “Throughout the planning process, tensions between the Defense Department and the State Department were never mediated by the president or his staff,” it said.

The Defense Department led by Donald H. Rumsfeld was given the lead in overseeing the postwar period in Iraq despite its “lack of capacity for civilian reconstruction planning and execution.”

The State Department led by Colin L. Powell produced a voluminous study on the future of Iraq that identified important issues but was of “uneven quality” and “did not constitute an actionable plan.”

Gen. Tommy R. Franks, whose Central Command oversaw the military operation in Iraq, had a “fundamental misunderstanding” of what the military needed to do to secure postwar Iraq, the study said.

The regulations that govern the Army’s relations with the Arroyo Center, the division of RAND that does research for the Army, stipulate that Army officials are to review reports in a timely fashion to ensure that classified information is not released. But the rules also note that the officials are not to “censor” analysis or prevent the dissemination of material critical of the Army.

The report on rebuilding Iraq was part of a seven-volume series by RAND on the lessons learned from the war. Asked why the report has not been published, Timothy Muchmore, a civilian Army official, said it had ventured too far from issues that directly involve the Army.

“After carefully reviewing the findings and recommendations of the thorough RAND assessment, the Army determined that the analysts had in some cases taken a broader perspective on the early planning and operational phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom than desired or chartered by the Army,” Mr. Muchmore said in a statement. “Some of the RAND findings and recommendations were determined to be outside the purview of the Army and therefore of limited value in informing Army policies, programs and priorities.”

Warren Robak, a RAND spokesman, declined to talk about the contents of the study but said the organization favored publication as a matter of general policy.

“RAND always endeavors to publish as much of our research as possible, in either unclassified form or in classified form for those with the proper security clearances,” Mr. Robak said in a statement. "The multivolume series on lessons learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom is no exception. We also, however, have a longstanding practice of not discussing work that has not yet been published."

When RAND researchers began their work, nobody expected it to become a bone of contention with the Army. The idea was to review the lessons learned from the war, as RAND had done with previous conflicts.

The research was formally sponsored by Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, who was then the chief operations officer for the Army and now oversees Army forces in the Middle East, and Lt. Gen. David Melcher, who had responsibility for the Army’s development and works now on budget issues.

A team of RAND researchers led by Nora Bensahel interviewed more than 50 civilian and military officials. As it became clear that decisions made by civilian officials had contributed to the Army’s difficulties in Iraq, researchers delved into those policies as well.

The report was submitted at a time when the Bush administration was trying to rebut building criticism of the war in Iraq by stressing the progress Mr. Bush said was being made. The approach culminated in his announcement in November 2005 of his “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.”

One serious problem the study described was the Bush administration’s assumption that the reconstruction requirements would be minimal. There was also little incentive to challenge that assumption, the report said.

“Building public support for any pre-emptive or preventative war is inherently challenging, since by definition, action is being taken before the threat has fully manifested itself,” it said. “Any serious discussion of the costs and challenges of reconstruction might undermine efforts to build that support.”

Another problem described was a general lack of coordination. “There was never an attempt to develop a single national plan that integrated humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, governance, infrastructure development and postwar security,” the study said.

One result was that “the U.S. government did not provide strategic policy guidance for postwar Iraq until shortly before major combat operations commenced.” The study said that problem was compounded by General Franks, saying he took a narrow view of the military’s responsibilities after Saddam Hussein was ousted and assumed that American civilian agencies would do much to rebuild the country.

General Franks’s command, the study asserted, also assumed that Iraq’s police and civil bureaucracy would stay on the job and had no fallback option in case that expectation proved wrong. When Baghdad fell, the study said, American forces there “were largely mechanized or armored forces, well suited to waging major battles but not to restoring civil order. That task would have been better carried out, ideally, by military police or, acceptably, by light infantry trained in urban combat.”

A “shortfall” in American troops was exacerbated when General Franks and Mr. Rumsfeld decided to stop the deployment of the Army’s First Cavalry Division when other American forces entered Baghdad, the study said, a move that reflected their assessment that the war had been won. Problems persisted during the occupation. In the months that followed, the report said, there were “significant tensions, most commonly between the civilian and military arms of the occupation.”

The poor planning had “the inadvertent effort of strengthening the insurgency,” as Iraqis experienced a lack of security and essential services and focused on “negative effects of the U.S. security presence.” The American military’s inability to seal Iraq’s borders, a task the 2005 report warned was still not a priority, enabled foreign support for the insurgents to flow into Iraq.

In its recommendations, the study advocated an “inverted planning process” in which military planners would begin by deciding what resources were needed to maintain security after an adversary was defeated on the battlefield instead of treating the postwar phase as virtually an afterthought. More broadly, it suggested that there was a need to change the military’s mind-set, which has long treated preparations to fight a major war as the top priority. The Army has recently moved to address this by drafting a new operations manual which casts the mission of stabilizing war-torn nations as equal in importance to winning a conventional war.

As the RAND study went through drafts, a chapter was written to emphasize the implications for the Army. An unclassified version was produced with numerous references to newspaper articles and books, an approach that was intended to facilitate publication.

Senior Army officials were not happy with the results, and questioned whether all of the information in the study was truly unclassified and its use of newspaper reports. RAND researchers sent a rebuttal. That failed to persuade the Army to allow publication of the unclassified report, and the classified version was not widely disseminated throughout the Pentagon.

Neither General Lovelace nor General Melcher agreed to be interviewed for this article, but General Lovelace provided a statement through a spokesman at his headquarters in Kuwait.

“The RAND study simply did not deliver a product that could have assisted the Army in paving a clear way ahead; it lacked the perspective needed for future planning by the U.S. Army,” he said.

A Pentagon official who is familiar with the episode offered a different interpretation: Army officials were concerned that the report would strain relations with a powerful defense secretary and become caught up in the political debate over the war. “The Army leaders who were involved did not want to take the chance of increasing the friction with Secretary Rumsfeld,” said the official, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to alienate senior military officials.

The Army has asked that the entire RAND series be resubmitted and has said it will decide on its status thereafter.

    Army Buried Study Faulting Iraq Planning, NYT, 11.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/11/washington/11army.html?hp






Gates Endorses Pause in Troop Withdrawals From Iraq


February 12, 2008
The New York Times


BAGHDAD — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Monday publicly endorsed the concept of holding steady the troop levels in Iraq, at least temporarily, after the departure this summer of five extra combat brigades sent last year as part of “the surge.”

After meeting with top American commanders, Mr. Gates said for the first time that he supported the idea of ordering a pause in troop reductions until the impact on security of the lower force levels could be assessed.

“I think that the notion of a brief period of consolidation and evaluation probably does make sense,” Mr. Gates said. His comments were another strong indication that American troop numbers in Iraq were unlikely to drop far below 130,000 this year, and certainly not to the 100,000 level advocated by some military officials and analysts worried about strain on the army.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior commander in Iraq, previously had hinted that he would recommend freezing troop levels, at least while he conducted further assessments, after the American military presence drops back to 15 combat brigades in July. By that time, the last of five additional brigades ordered to Iraq last year by President Bush would have departed.

President Bush has said he would put great weight on General Petraeus’ formal recommendations, due this spring, and repeatedly has said that he would do whatever is necessary to sustain gains in security made over the months of the troop increase.

Mr. Gates met for two hours Monday with General Petraeus and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who leaves in coming days after 15 months as the No. 2 commander in Iraq.

After that meeting, Mr. Gates acknowledged that his assessment on whether to recommend Mr. Bush put off additional troop withdrawals had been developing at the same time and along the same lines as that of the commanders’.

“I had been kind of headed in that direction, as well,” Mr. Gates said.

But the defense secretary cautioned that significant questions are still to be decided, including “how long is that period” of a pause in troop cuts, and “what happens after that.”

Mr. Gates stressed that the president still had made no decisions, and that Mr. Bush would receive separate assessments from General Petraeus, from commanders responsible for the broader Middle East, and from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who would evaluate strain on the force and global threats.

Officials worried about stress on the ground forces had expressed hopes that American troop levels in Iraq could begin dropping toward 100,000 this year.

Although Mr. Bush has indicated that he would order no further troop reductions if security gains might be undermined, decisions on the American commitment to Iraq will pass to a new president in January. The top Democratic candidates have said they favor more rapid troop reductions in Iraq, while Senator John McCain, the presidential contender who is leading the Republican Party in convention delegates. is an unwavering supporter of the troop increase.

After his meetings at the military headquarters at Camp Victory, near the Baghdad airport, Mr. Gates visited Forward Operating Base Falcon in the Rashid neighborhood of southern Baghdad.

The troop increase ordered by President Bush last January acknowledged that Baghdad was the center of gravity for security in the nation, and the goal of adding combat forces was to drive terrorists from the city and from a belt of communities surrounding the capital, as well as to suppress insurgent groups and sectarian death squads.

Maj. Gen. Jeffery W. Hammond, commander of Multinational Division-Baghdad, said overall attacks in his area of responsibility had declined 75 percent since a high last June of 1,425, to 353 last month.

He said his goal was to spread American and allied forces even further into the neighborhoods, and that he plans to establish additional forward posts and security stations.

“I want to remove the predictability of being in one place too long,” General Hammond said, vowing to maintain the pressure on terrorists, insurgents and sectarian militias regardless of force levels after the summer. “We are not going to give back any territory. Not in Baghdad.”

    Gates Endorses Pause in Troop Withdrawals From Iraq, NYT, 12.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/world/middleeast/12gates.html?hp






Roadside blasts kill 5 U.S. soldiers in Iraq


Sat Feb 9, 2008
12:08pm EST
By Michael Holden


BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Five American soldiers were killed in roadside bombings in Iraq on Friday, the U.S. military said on Saturday, while U.S. and Iraqi forces seized 37 suspects in raids against al Qaeda fighters and Shi'ite militiamen.

The latest arrests come as the U.S. military aggressively pursues Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, as well as what it describes as rogue elements of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army and other Shi'ite militia Washington says are supported by Iran.

Attacks are down by 60 percent since last June on the back of a boost of 30,000 extra U.S. troops, a decision by Sunni Arab tribal leaders to turn against al Qaeda and a six-month ceasefire ordered by Sadr last August.

On Friday a respected think-tank said U.S. forces should not provoke the Mehdi Army, once described by the Pentagon as the greatest threat to peace in Iraq, into the sort of widespread violence that took Iraq to the brink of civil war.

U.S. commanders say al Qaeda is now the biggest security threat in Iraq, while some rogue members of anti-U.S. cleric Sadr's splintered militia have ignored the ceasefire and other Shi'ite militia have continued attacks.

"There have been increases in some areas and great decreases in others," said U.S. military spokesman Major Mark Cheadle.

Imad al-Din al-Saidi, a prominent Mehdi Army figure in Baghdad's Sadr City, said Iraqi security forces and U.S. soldiers had taken advantage of his group's ceasefire.

"Those parties have viciously abused the decision through the many break-ins and the random arrests of people in Sadr's army and movement," he said, adding he did not think the cleric would renew the freeze when it expires later this month.

In Friday's bloodiest incident, four soldiers were killed by a roadside blast while on patrol northwest of the Iraqi capital, the U.S. military said in a statement. It blamed a deeply buried roadside bomb, a signature al Qaeda tactic.

Another soldier died in an explosion near his vehicle and three others were wounded near Tikrit in northern Iraq.

So far this month 13 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq, according to icasualties.org, an independent Web site that tracks military deaths there. A total of 3,957 American soldiers have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.



U.S. forces said on Saturday they had detained 15 militants in central and northern Iraq in the past two days, including a suspected Shi'ite militia leader and two al Qaeda operatives.

Iraqi police said they had arrested 15 militants in the Shi'ite holy city of Kerbala, 110 km (70 miles) south of Baghdad, during raids on Friday.

Another seven, some said by police to include former members of the Mehdi Army, were held in Nassiriya, about 375 km (235 miles) south of the capital.

Earlier this month, the U.S. military said attacks using Iranian-made roadside bombs had risen to the highest level in a year in an area of Baghdad that includes Sadr City, a sprawling Shi'ite slum in northeast Baghdad and a Mehdi Army stronghold.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank cautioned U.S. forces in its report against taking firm action against the Mehdi Army, saying it was "unassailable" in strongholds in Baghdad and mainly Shi'ite southern Iraq.

The ICG report said it was "fanciful" to imagine the defeat of the Mehdi Army, which has tens of thousands of fighters, and that pressuring it would likely trigger fierce resistance in Baghdad and escalate strife among Shi'ites in the south.

But U.S. forces remain keen to go after Shi'ite militants who U.S. officials say Tehran has supplied with sophisticated, armor-piercing bombs known as explosively formed penetrators (EFPs). Iran denies the allegation.

On Thursday, David Satterfield, the State Department's Iraq coordinator, said he believed Iran's strategy was still to force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq at as high a price as possible.

U.S. and Iranian officials are due to hold another, long-awaited round of talks on security in Iraq in Baghdad soon. "We hope there's a date soon," a U.S. embassy spokeswoman said.

(Additional reporting by Tim Cocks and Aws Qusay in Baghdad; Editing by Sami Aboudi)

    Roadside blasts kill 5 U.S. soldiers in Iraq, R, 9.2.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSL1880448320080209






War Costs Next Year Estimated at $685 Billion or More


February 6, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost $170 billion in the next fiscal year over and above the $515.4 billion regular Pentagon budget that President Bush has proposed, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Wednesday.

Mr. Gates gave that estimate in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee after cautioning the panel that any estimate would be dicey, given the unpredictability of war.

“Well, a straight-line projection, Mr. Chairman, of our current expenditures would probably put the full-year cost in a strictly arithmetic approach at about $170 billion,” Mr. Gates said in response to questions from Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is the head of the committee.

So, Mr. Levin pressed, “That would be a total then of $685 billion” in Pentagon spending for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. “Does that sound right?”

“Yes, sir,” Mr. Gates replied. “But as I indicated, I have no confidence in that figure.”

Mr. Levin has been a persistent critic of the war in Iraq, and he has complained that the Bush administration has been less than straightforward about the financial costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns by seeking supplemental funding outside the regular Pentagon budget. Congress has gone along with the supplemental requests, with members of both parties pledging to give American troops whatever they need.

“While the monetary cost is not the most important part of the debate over Iraq or Afghanistan, it does need to be part of that debate, and the citizens of our nation have a right to know what those costs are projected to be,” Senator Levin said.

Mr. Gates got a relatively friendly welcome, perhaps in part because he has tried to adopt a style less confrontational than that of his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld. Adm. Michael G. Mullen was also welcomed warmly by committee members in his first appearance before the panel as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,

Senator Levin complained, as he has before, about what he sees as the failure of the post-Saddam Hussein government in Iraq. “For years, the Iraqi leaders have failed to seize the opportunity our brave troops gave them,” he said. “It is long past time that the Iraqi leaders hear a clear, simple message: we can’t save them from themselves; it’s in their hands, not ours, to create a nation by making the political compromises needed to end the conflict.”

Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, the committee’s ranking Republican and one of his party’s most influential voices on military matters, did not disagree with Senator Levin on Iraq. “I think by any fair standard, that level of progress to date is falling below the expectations that we had hoped,” he said. “Senator Levin quite appropriately observed that the elected officials in Iraq are simply not exercising the full responsibility of the range of sovereignty, and that puts our forces in a certain degree of continuing peril and risk.”

Mr. Gates said in response to questions that he will soon visit Iraq again and confer with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander, on whether and when to reduce American troop strength to the “pre-surge” level of about 130,000.

Also on Wednesday, Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, agreed that the international military mission there was “under-resourced,” in particular when compared with deployments to Iraq.

“Afghanistan, land mass-wise, is half again as big as Iraq, for example, if you want to get some relative bearing there,” General McNeill said during a Pentagon news briefing.

In Afghanistan, the population is “estimated to be perhaps as much as 3 million more than Iraq, yet we have, in trying to operate in a counterinsurgency environment, only a fraction of the force that the coalition has in Iraq,” General McNeill added. “So there’s no question it’s an under-resourced force.”

General McNeill said that if the official American military counterinsurgency doctrine were applied to Afghanistan, then well over 400,000 allied and Afghan security troops would be required. He acknowledged the impossibility of fielding a force of that size.

“The trick, then, is to manage the risk that’s inherent in having an under-resourced international force and reaching the level of capacity at which the Afghan national security forces ought to be,” he said, stressing especially the importance of training the local police.

The NATO-led security assistance mission has about 40,000 troops in Afghanistan, of which 14,000 are American. Separately, the United States has 12,000 other troops there conducting counterterrorism and support missions. Mr. Gates in recent days signed a deployment order for an additional 3,200 marines for temporary duty in Afghanistan.

The general also disputed public assessments that the Afghan insurgency was growing, and he cited the number of low- to high-level insurgent leaders who were killed or captured. “That number is significant,” General McNeill said. “Many of those were jihadists who cut their teeth fighting the Soviets. They were good at their skills. They’re no longer on the battlefield. That’ll be very helpful.”

Commenting on a recent public debate about skills of various NATO nations at waging counter-insurgency missions, General McNeill said that “it is probably an incontrovertible truth that if you pull a huge alliance together, that the going-in position of different nationalities of that alliance, or at least their military forces, is somewhat different.”

He acknowledged differences in training, as well as varying political pressures from individual home capitals that affect the capabilities of those forces in Afghanistan.

Looking to the future, General McNeill predicted an exceedingly large opium harvest, and warned that significant portions of narcotics profits would go to Taliban and other insurgent activity.

    War Costs Next Year Estimated at $685 Billion or More, NYT, 6.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/06/washington/06cnd-military.html






American Soldiers Kill 3 Iraqis in Raid


February 6, 2008
The New York Times


BAGHDAD — The American military said Tuesday that American troops killed at least two men and a woman, and wounded a child during a raid late Monday in Tikrit in northern Iraq.

Military officials in Baghdad said in a statement that killings happened when American soldiers were fired upon as they attacked what they believed was a “terrorist cell.”

“While entering a building, coalition soldiers were attacked by small arms fire,” the statement said. “The soldiers returned fire. Upon initial inspection, coalition forces discovered two men dead, a woman dead, and an injured child.”

According to Iraqi police, all four casualties were family members living in a tiny one-room house. Ali Hamed Shihab, a 47-year-old farmer, his wife, Naeema Ali, 45, and their son, Dhiaa Ali, 18, were all killed. The wounded child was Mr. Shihab’s 16-year-old daughter.

A fourth family member, an 11-year-old girl, died on Tuesday on the way to the hospital, according to Iraqi authorities.

The house is located in a remote village called Door, about 500 miles north of Baghdad. A reporter for The Associated Press went to the house on Tuesday and saw three bodies and shell-casings on the floor there, and quoted a relative who said she witnessed American soldiers kick open the door and fire their weapons without provocation.

On Sunday, military officials acknowledged that they had mistakenly killed nine Iraqi civilians in Iskandariya, 25 miles south of the capital. Iraqi authorities said that the victims included several checkpoint guardsmen.

The Iraqi Army was also contending with the death under mysterious circumstances of a Mahdi Army militiaman who was being detained at the Amara airport base in southern Iraq.

Munthir al-Mosawi, a 27-year-old member of the Shiite militia founded by militant cleric Moktada al-Sadr, died in custody after being held for three days on a Baghdad arrest warrant. A medical report concluded that Mr. Mosawi died of a “bullet in the head,” according to a military official who read the document.

Iraqi officials gave varying accounts of his death and Sadr representatives threatened to call off a months-long cease-fire that has been credited with a significant reduction in violence in Iraq.

Initial Iraqi Army reports claimed that the Shiite militant committed suicide, but later accounts, including an explanation offered by Defense Ministry spokesman Muhammad al-Askari, said that Mr. Mosawi died while attempting to wrest away a prison guard’s AK-47 machine gun.

“He asked for water to drink,” Mr. Askari said. “When he was unshackled, he grabbed the guard’s rifle and shot himself.”

Brigadier Ali Wahab, Amara’s police commander, created a three-judge committee to investigate the death and announced that a second committee was dispatched to Amara from the capital.

Sheikh Salah al-Obaidi, a senior Sadr representative in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, said that the death led militia members to reconsider their détente, but that in the end they chose not to retaliate despite their distrust of Iraq’s judiciary institutions.

Still, Sheikh Obaidi warned that the Mahdi Army cease-fire does not extend to tribal retribution.

“The person who was killed is related to a tribe, and it is not necessary to restrain his tribe under the Mahdi Army cease-fire,” he said. “We don’t have the right to stop the reactions that come from the deceased’s brothers and his tribe.”

In other violence in southern Iraq, gunmen in Hilla shot a woman minibus passenger to death on Tuesday and Major Rafa Jawad, a Basra police spokesman, announced that two Shiite religious clerics were kidnapped on Monday.

The kidnappers later contacted the relatives of those abducted and demanded $100,000 for the release of both men.

Employees of The New York Times in Tikrit, Najaf, Amara, and Basra contributed reporting.

    American Soldiers Kill 3 Iraqis in Raid, NYT, 6.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/06/world/middleeast/06iraq.html?hp






Mass Grave Discovered Near Baghdad


February 5, 2008
Filed at 2:54 p.m. ET
The New York Times


BAGHDAD (AP) -- About 50 dead bodies were discovered Tuesday in a mass grave northwest of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said.

U.S.-backed Sunni tribesmen found the grave while patrolling the village of Jazeerah, 15 miles west of Samarra near Lake Tharthar, said Col. Mazin Younis Hussein, commander of the Samarra support force, a group of local men working with U.S. forces.

Some of the bodies were severely decomposed, suggesting they had been buried months ago, while other victims appeared to have been killed recently, said Samarra police Lt. Muthana Shakir, who visited the site Tuesday and saw the bodies.

As many as 200 bodies have been unearthed in recent months from mass graves around Lake Tharthar. Al-Qaida in Iraq controlled the area, as well as huge swaths of Iraq's western deserts, until being ousted early this year in an uprising by local tribes.

Also Tuesday, at least three Iraqis were killed and one child was injured after American soldiers stormed a tiny one-room house north of Baghdad and opened fire, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.

Iraqi police, relatives and neighbors said a couple and their 19-year-old son were shot to death in their beds late Monday. But the U.S. military said soldiers came under fire and killed two suspected members of a terrorist cell in self-defense. It said it did not know who shot the woman or the child.

The U.S. military reported only three dead, but Iraqi police said two young girls were wounded and one died Tuesday at a hospital.

It was the second time in as many days that the U.S. military conceded involvement in the death of Iraqi civilians.

On Monday, the military said it had accidentally killed nine Iraqi civilians, including a child, in an airstrike targeting al-Qaida in Iraq south of Baghdad.

In both cases, the military acknowledged involvement in the killings only in response to media inquiries.

Both incidents raised fresh concerns about the military's ability to distinguish friend from foe -- and to protect civilians in the line of fire -- in its stepped-up campaign to uproot insurgents from Sunni areas around Baghdad.

The latest deaths occurred in the village of Adwar, 10 miles south of Tikrit. The predominantly Sunni area is home to many former members of Saddam Hussein's regime, and has been the frequent site of U.S. raids against Sunni militants.

The U.S. military confirmed the raid in an e-mail to The Associated Press, saying its troops came under small arms fire while entering the building, and that soldiers shot dead two men inside. A woman was killed and one child was injured, but it was unclear who shot them, the military said.

It said the nighttime raid was based on intelligence gleaned from an informant -- opening the possibility that the military was misled into targeting the family, perhaps out of local Iraqis' tribal or sectarian motives.

The incident remains under investigation, the military said.

A cousin of the victims, Kareem Talea Hamad, 20, said he watched the killings from his house across the street, and gave a different account of events than the American military's version.

Hamad said U.S. soldiers opened the door to the small brick house and immediately opened fire, killing its unarmed residents: father Ali Hamad Shihab, 55, his wife Naeimah Ali Sulaiman, 40, and their son Diaa Ali, who was a member of a U.S.-backed neighborhood watch group.

Such groups, composed mainly of Sunni fighters partnering with the U.S. to oust al-Qaida from their hometowns, have been targeted by other militants because of their alliance with U.S. and Iraqi forces.

The head of Adwar's Awakening Council, Col. Mutasim Ahmed, confirmed that Diaa Ali was killed. He also offered an explanation for the discrepancy between the U.S. military's account of what happened, and that of Iraqi police and witnesses.

''It seems that some gunmen were positioned near the house and they opened fire on the Americans who returned fire,'' Ahmed said.

Two other daughters were wounded and transported to hospitals, and one died Tuesday morning, Hamad, the cousin, said. An Iraqi police officer, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, confirmed Hamad's account.

A surviving daughter, Nawal Ali, 16, said she was inside the house at the time of the raid, and that an Iraqi interpreter working for U.S. forces tried to stop the American soldiers from killing her parents.

The unidentified interpreter rushed into the house after he heard gunshots, Ali said. ''He shouted at the Americans, saying `What the heck are you are doing?''' she said.

''Then he pushed them away after they killed my family,'' Ali said. She credited the interpreter for saving the lives of two of her younger siblings, 5-year-old Hamzah and 6-year-old Asmaa.

Witnesses who went to the family's house early Tuesday saw three dead bodies, laid out in their blood-soaked beds. Bullet casings littered the ground.

Relatives and neighbors gathered at the house to mourn the family, and loudspeakers at a nearby mosque announced plans for a funeral.

Later Tuesday, the U.S. military issued a statement saying it ''regrets the loss of an innocent civilian and the wounding of a child.'' It did not name the father and son, but claimed U.S. soldiers killed the men in self-defense.

In Taji, north of Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives Tuesday near the convoy of a sheik working with U.S. forces, killing two of his followers, police said. Those killed were members of the Taji Awakening Council, a group of Sunni tribesmen north of Baghdad who have partnered with the Americans to oust militants from their hometowns.

The suicide attacker was standing near a cluster of shops waiting for Sheik Sahthir al-Khlifawi's convoy, when awakening council members spotted him, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.

The men approached him after spotting wires dangling from his jacket, and the man then exploded himself, the officer said.

Al-Khlifawi said one of those killed was his nephew.

''We have been expecting such terrorist attacks after we received several threats. I gave orders to intensify security measures in the area,'' the sheik said.

Separately, the U.S. military said it detained eight suspected militants Tuesday in operations to disrupt al-Qaida in Iraq across northern parts of the country.

    Mass Grave Discovered Near Baghdad, NYT, 5.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Iraq.html






Dozens Killed in Worst Baghdad Attack in Months


February 2, 2008
The New York Times


BAGHDAD — Twin bombs struck two markets in central Baghdad on Friday, killing dozens in the worst attack in the Iraqi capital for many months.

One bomb hit the Ghazil pet market, the scene of another deadly bombing in November when 13 people were killed.

The second bomb hit minutes later and barely two miles away at the New Baghdad pet market. Both markets are on the east side of the Tigris River, and both are in mainly Shiite areas. But they are popular with both Shiites and Sunnis.

Early reports put the death toll from both attacks at more than 50. The bombings were carried out by women suicide attackers wearing explosive vests, witnesses said.

American military commanders have noted in recent months that in areas where there are many checkpoints insurgents have begun using suicide vests instead of vehicles to carry out bombings because they are easier to sneak past road blocks and barriers.

Ghazil is closed to most vehicles by head-high concrete blast barriers. The New Baghdad market has guards and barbed wire but no blast walls.

At the New Baghdad market, army units sealed off the area and set up checkpoints following the explosion. Bloodstained feathers mixed with melting sleet. At a popular roadside bird market, stall holders said a woman suicide bomber blew herself up at around 10:30 a.m., just as they were getting news of the Ghazil bombing a few minutes earlier.

“We were just talking about the first bomb when it happened,” said Abbas Muhammad Awad, 54, a pigeon seller. “There was not enough time for people to leave because it was only five or 10 minutes between the bombs.”

The Associated Press reported that the death toll at Ghazil was at least 46 people, quoting police officials. Witnesses said the Ghazil attack happened at around 10:15 a.m. The second explosion killed at least 18 people and wounded 25, The A.P. reported.

The Ghazil market has been a regular target. It was also struck a year ago in January when 15 people died. Last November’s deadly attack, in the crowded bazaar in the shadow of the Mosque of the Caliphs, caused a scene of carnage, and even then was a cruel reminder that the decline in violence in this city is relative and may not last.

At the New Baghdad market on Friday, Yahya Omran, 50, showing multiple scars from one of the previous bombs to hit the market, complained that despite repeated requests the authorities had failed to erect a concrete blast wall to protect the market as had happened at other markets.

“I came back to work here because I have to pay rent and I need to support my family,” he said. “I thought everything was starting to get better but then this happened. I think things are going to get worse. It’s chaos.”

Stephen Farrell reported from Baghdad,

and Graham Bowley from New York.

Dozens Killed in Worst Baghdad Attack in Months, NYT, 1.2.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/02/world/middleeast/02iraq.html




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