- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007

12:41 p.m.

BAGHDAD — Violence raked Baghdad today as an Iraqi general took charge of the security operation in the capital and Iraqi police and soldiers manned new roadblocks — initial steps indicating the start of the long-anticipated joint operation with American forces to curb sectarian bloodshed.

At least 31 persons died in bomb and mortar attacks across the city today, 15 of them as they waited to refill propane cooking tanks when two car bombs blew up in quick succession in southern Baghdad.

The U.S. military reported the deaths of two American soldiers, both killed yesterday.

The violence was a sign of the difficulty facing the push that eventually will be able to call upon as many as 90,000 American and Iraqi troops and police in a third attempt to calm the capital in nine months. The command center, staffed by Iraqis and Americans, opened today inside the U.S.-controlled Green Zone next to the prime minister’s office.

Two past security operations in the capital over the past nine months — Operations Together Forward I and II — have failed, and the United States blamed Iraqi authorities for failing to produce the number of troops promised.

A spokesman for the Sadrist Movement, an important Shi’ite bloc in parliament, complained that the security crackdown had been too long in coming, especially given the series of bombings that have devastated mainly Shi’ite marketplaces over the past weeks.

At least 132 persons died in a truck bombing Saturday in the Sadriyah market, the deadliest single bomb attack since the war began.

The security sweep will be led by Lt. Gen. Abboud Gambar, who was named to the top position under pressure from the United States after it rejected Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s first choice — Lt. Gen. Mohan al-Freiji.

Gen. Gambar will have two Iraqi deputies, one on each side of the Tigris River that splits Baghdad north to south. The city was to be divided into nine districts, and there were to be as many as 600 U.S. forces in each district to back up Iraqi troops who will take the lead in the security drive.

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