56 Iraqis killed by rebel attacks
BAGHDAD | Bombers and gunmen killed at least 56 Iraqis in two dozen attacks spanning the country Wednesday, mostly targeting security forces in seemingly coordinated strikes the day after the number of U.S. troops fell below 50,000 for the first time since the start of the war.
Insurgents have been stepping up their attacks on Iraq’s security forces in recent months as the U.S. has trimmed its military presence in the country. At least half of those killed — 31 — were Iraqi soldiers and policemen.
There were no claims of responsibility for the spate of attacks. But their scale and reach, from one end of the country to the other, underscored insurgent efforts to prove their might against security forces and political leaders who are charged with the day-to-day running and stability of Iraq.
The deadliest attack came in Kut, 100 miles 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. Police and hospital officials said 19 people were killed, 15 of them policemen. An estimated 90 people were wounded.
“I rushed to the scene to help evacuate the people, and saw body parts and hands scattered on the ground and dead bodies of policemen,” said government employee Yahya al-Shimari. “I also saw a traffic policeman lying dead on the ground. There were about 15 cars that were burnt.”
A similar attack struck a neighborhood in north Baghdad, where a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb in a parking lot behind a police station.
Fifteen people were killed in the blast, including six policemen. Police and hospital officials said another 58 were wounded in the explosion that left a crater three yards wide and trapped people beneath the rubble of felled houses nearby.
Five others, including an Iraqi soldier and a police officer, were killed in small bursts of violence in Baghdad.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the stalled government, combined with the American troop withdrawal, created ideal conditions for insurgents to attack. Even so, he said the security situation was “under control.”
“Here you have a government paralysis, you have a political vacuum … you have the U.S. troop withdrawal,” Mr. Zebari told the Associated Press. “And in such environment, these terrorist networks flourish actually and would love to deepen divisions among Iraqi politicians to apportion blame on each other in order to create as much chaos as possible.”
But U.S. and Iraqi officials alike acknowledge growing frustration throughout the nation, nearly six months after the vote, and say that politically motivated violence could undo security gains made over the past few years.
“What is going on in the country?” said Abu Mohammed, an eyewitness to a car bombing near Baghdad’s Adan Square that killed two passers-by. “Where is the protection? Where are the security troops?”
Still, some security forces proved to be on guard. Police in the northern city of Mosul said Iraqi soldiers shot and killed a suicide bomber Wednesday afternoon as he sought to blow up his car outside an army base. In another part of the city, police killed a militant with an explosives vest.