Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Baghdad Car-Bomb Attacks Kill at Least 166 People

April 18 (Bloomberg) -- 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 more than 26,000 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.

`Horrifying Thing'

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.

Admiral William Fallon, the new commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said the attacks give insurgents ``an opportunity to really set us back in a big way.''

``How we turn the tide so these become not regular occurrences I think is really significant,'' he said in an interview following testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in Washington.'

`Last Opportunity'

Fallon, who took over as head of the U.S. military's Central Command on March 16, told the committee that the new wave of U.S. troops gives Iraq's government a ``last opportunity'' to stabilize the nation.

The U.S. and its allies ``have made an extraordinary commitment'' to give the new government ``the space to be able to make the decisions to try to move this country forward,'' he said. ``This is really the Iraqi leadership's major and potentially last opportunity to take this ball forward.''

The five extra U.S. combat brigades of 21,500 troops will be in place by early June. There are about 145,000 troops in Iraq today, which includes three of these brigades.

An additional 4,600 support, aviation and military police personnel are also deploying to Iraq, bringing the total ``surge'' in U.S. forces to more than 26,000.

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.


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