Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Iraq - '1,800 dead in March attacks'

Seven weeks of the US led security crackdown has seemingly made little progress. Last week was the deadliest week since the start of the operation which has mainly focused on Baghdad. Hundreds of Iraqis have died in dozens of suicide bombings and other attacks. Whilst BBC and Sky only sporadically cover the continuing violence in Iraq, CNN bring almost daily coverage. Last week, three days of violence killed over 400 people, and the death toll for March exceeded 1,800. The attacks, including market bombings, attacks on funerals, as well as attacks aimed at coalition troops were all over the country. In Tal Afar in northern Iraq, 152 were killed in a series of truck-bomb blasts targeting mainly Shia Muslims. Reprisal attacks followed the next day with indiscriminate gun battles against Sunnis. In Baghdad and Khalis bombings killed 124 Iraqis.
In another incident a US airstrike killed 16 civilians according to the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Besides the increased attacks from insurgents, Brig. General David Grange, speaking on CNN’s This Week at War, said the security crackdown was “having an effect”. But CNN correspondent Kyra Phillips said “it’s not safe” as a result of the US initiative in Baghdad. She said it was like the “wild, wild west” with gunfire and ‘pot-shots’ being aimed at her convoy as they made their way around the city. However, in Washington on Thursday, General Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs Chairman, said that death squad activity had been seriously diminished. But he said the “large bombs perpetrated by al-Qaeda had increased”. As regards the issue as to whether the country was gripped by civil war, Admiral William Fallon of the US Central Command, disputed this when he spoke to Kyra Phillips earlier in the week. He said “it was not true” that the whole country was at war with each other. “I don’t think it is civil war”, he iterated, “there are factions fighting one another; small factions”. This is in contrast to a recent US document which described the situation as “civil war plus”. CNN correspondent Kyra Phillips also disagreed with his assessment. “If this isn’t civil war, I don’t know what is. The fighting is everywhere”, she said. The fighting continues to take the lives of coalition soldiers too. On Sunday and Monday the British lost two more troops to hostile action bringing the death toll to 136. In Monday’s incident a soldier was killed by small arms fire whilst on routine patrol [BBC] whilst Sunday’s incident also involved firearms [BBC]. The US death toll is far higher now standing at 3,257 [icasualties.org]. More than eighty US troops were killed in March alone. Throughout the war there has also been more than 25,000 injured. Many have passed through the Walter Reed hospital in the US which has been highlighted in news reports for being rat infested with mould growing on the walls. President Bush visited the hospital last week and apologized for the conditions and said he would “fix the problem”. One of many problems the President has to fix.

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