- The Washington Times - Monday, December 13, 2004

BAGHDAD — An al Qaeda-linked terrorist blew up his vehicle yesterday near cars waiting to enter the green zone, home to the U.S. Embassy and Iraq’s interim government, killing 13 Iraqis on the anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s capture.

As insurgents continued to step up attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces ahead of next month’s elections, President Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer said Washington was wrong to dismantle Iraq’s security forces, including its 350,000-strong army, after last year’s invasion.

“Definitely, dissolving the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior was a big mistake,” Mr. al-Yawer told British Broadcasting Corp. radio, saying it would have been more effective to screen out former regime loyalists than to rebuild from scratch.

He added: “As soon as we have efficient security forces that we can depend on, we can see the beginning of the withdrawal of forces from our friends and partners, and I think it doesn’t take years, it will take months.”

The uprising has escalated since the capture of Saddam, and the number of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces have risen steadily.

Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi’s group, now known as “al Qaeda in Iraq,” claimed credit for yesterday’s deadly attack in central Baghdad, where a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives-packed car near a checkpoint leading into the heavily fortified green zone, killing 13 Iraqis and wounding 15. No U.S. troops were injured.

A U.S. soldier with the 1st Corps Support Command was killed and another wounded yesterday in a vehicle accident near a military base in Balad, 50 miles north of the capital. It was not clear what caused the accident.

Seven U.S. Marines died in action Sunday in the volatile Anbar province west of Baghdad, the deadliest day for the Marines since eight of them were killed by a car bomb Oct. 30 outside Fallujah.

The deaths brought to nearly 1,300 the number of American troops killed in Iraq since the invasion in March 2003.

In the northern city of Mosul, a car bomb blast struck a U.S. Stryker brigade patrol yesterday, wounding two American soldiers. U.S. troops and insurgents fought gunbattles after the blast.

In Tarmiyah, on Baghdad’s northern outskirts, three U.S. troops were wounded in a car bombing that wrecked two Humvees, pieces of which were raised into the air by jubilant Iraqi men who danced around the charred hulks and a large crater blown into the road.

Eight of Saddam’s 11 detained top lieutenants went on hunger strikes over the weekend to demand jail visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross, but were eating again by yesterday, a U.S. military spokesman said. The former dictator never joined the protest, the U.S. military said.

In New York, Iraq’s government pressed the United Nations to give it more help on the ground ahead of planned elections and rejected U.N. criticism of military assaults on insurgent-held areas.

Iraqi U.N. Ambassador Samir Shakir Sumaidaie, briefing the U.N. Security Council, said his government was more concerned by attacks on the Iraqi people than by threats of an election boycott, which he predicted would not be heeded by “any sizable segment of Iraq’s population.”

With Iraq’s elections about six weeks away, fewer than 1 percent of eligible voters have registered, The Washington Times reported in yesterday’s editions.

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