- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2006

BAGHDAD — Roadside bombings killed at least eight Iraqi policemen yesterday, the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion, and authorities said they found 15 bullet-riddled bodies dumped in the capital.

South of Baghdad, millions of Shi’ite pilgrims poured into Karbala to complete 40 days of symbolic mourning for Imam Hussein, the prophet Muhammad’s grandson.

The pilgrims carried flags and performed rituals of self-flagellation with chains and machetes to display grief over the imam’s death. About 4 million pilgrims had arrived in the city, said Karbala Gov. Akeel al-Khuzai, who expected more through today.

The anniversary of the U.S. invasion has been marked by deadly insurgent attacks in the past. In 2004, coordinated blasts at Shi’ite shrines in Karbala and in Baghdad killed at least 181 persons.

Tight security appeared to be holding sectarian violence at bay, though five pilgrims making their way to Karbala were attacked in a drive-by shooting. All survived, police said.

Baghdad International Airport was ordered closed through today as a precaution, said Ahmed Abdul-Wahab, a spokesman for the Transportation Ministry.

The violence yesterday took up where it left off Sunday, when at least 35 persons were killed.

A large explosion rocked a coffee shop in northern Baghdad’s Azamiyah neighborhood, killing at least three civilians and wounding 15, police said.

A roadside bombing a few hundred yards from an Interior Ministry lockup in central Baghdad killed at least three Iraqi police commandos and a prisoner, police said. Four commandos were injured.

A second roadside bomb in a farming area in the so-called “Triangle of Death” south of Baghdad killed four policemen.

A car bomb exploded close to a police checkpoint near a hospital in downtown Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, killing one police officer and wounding another as well as two civilians, police said.

The 15 dumped bodies, including that of a 13-year-old girl, were the latest gruesome discoveries tied to the underground sectarian war being conducted by Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims as they settle scores in the chaos gripping the capital.

Baghdad’s residents voiced anger when asked about their lives as the war entered its fourth year.

“Since [U.S.-led troops] came into Iraq, we get nothing,” said Ali Zeidan. “Three years have passed by for the Iraqi people and they are still suffering psychologically … and economically.”

President Bush sought yesterday to emphasize progress over disillusionment, urging Americans to see a developing democracy beyond the frequent images of violence.

Meeting at the White House with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Mr. Bush said the military alliance’s training mission in Iraq will help ensure that Iraqi security forces “can end up protecting the Iraqi people from those who want to kill innocent life in order to affect the outcome of that democracy.”

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