- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

BAGHDAD (AP) — Bombers and gunmen killed at least 56 Iraqis in more than two dozen attacks across the country Wednesday, mostly targeting security forces and rekindling memories of the days when insurgents ruled the streets.

The attacks made August the deadliest month for Iraqi policemen and soldiers in two years, and came a day after the U.S. declared the number of U.S. troops had fallen to fewer than 50,000, their lowest level since the war began in 2003.

Powerful blasts targeting security forces struck where they are supposed to be the safest, turning police stations into rubble and bringing down concrete walls erected to protect them from insurgents.

“Where is the protection, where are the security troops?” said Abu Mohammed, an eyewitness to a car bombing near Baghdad’s Adan Square that killed two passers-by. “What is going on in the country?”

Iraq‘s foreign minister said insurgents are attempting to sow as much chaos as possible, as lawmakers struggle to form a new government and Americans withdraw troops.

An Iraqi girl wears bandages after being injured in a bombing in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010. A string of attacks targeting Iraqi security forces on Wednesday left several people dead and scores wounded, police and hospital officials said the day after the number of American soldiers in the country fell bellow 50,000.(AP Photo/Ahmed al-Husseini)
An Iraqi girl wears bandages after being injured in a bombing in ... more >

“Here you have a government paralysis, you have a political vacuum … you have the U.S. troop withdrawal,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said. “And, in such environment, these terrorist networks flourish.”

But like most attacks here, they are met with outrage on the streets and condemnation from government officials. Authorities, however, are virtually powerless in the face of the insurgents’ threat.

At least 265 security personnel — Iraqi military, police and police recruits, and bodyguards — have been killed from June through August, compared to 180 killed in the previous five months, according to an Associated Press count.

In August, nearly 5 Iraqi security personnel on average have been killed every day so far.

These numbers are considered a minimum, based on AP reporting. The actual number is likely higher, as many killings go unreported or uncounted.

That rise in deaths coincided with the drawdown of U.S. troops. American officials said on Tuesday that the number of troops fell below 50,000 — a step toward a full withdrawal by the end of 2011.

The scale and reach of Wednesday’s attacks in 14 cities and towns underscored insurgent efforts to prove their might against security forces and political leaders charged with running and keeping stability in Iraq.

“The insurgents hope to regain the initiative once the Americans are gone,” said John Pike, the director of the military information website GlobalSecurity.org.

“The longer there’s a stalemate between the Shiite and Sunni politicians,” Pike said, “the greater the opportunity for the extremists to translate political violence into political influence.”

The deadliest attack came in Kut, 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, where a suicide bomber blew up a car inside a security barrier between a police station and the provincial government’s headquarters.

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