Crackdown in Iraq likely to take time

Originally published April 2, 2007
After a violent week that claimed the lives of about 500 Iraqis and the weekend combat deaths of six American soldiers, U.S. and Iraqi military officials acknowledged yesterday that it will take time for the effects of the security crackdown in Iraq to be felt.

The U.S. military said two U.S. troops were killed yesterday evening by a roadside bomb southwest of Baghdad, and four others died in the same area a short time later in an apparent ambush laid for would-be rescuers.

A seventh soldier died yesterday in Anbar province from noncombat causes, the military said without disclosing details.

A new Iraqi government tally indicated that violent deaths of Iraqi civilians nationwide had climbed to 1,861 in March, up from 1,645 in February. American and Iraqi troops launched a security sweep in the capital Feb. 13.

About half of the 24,000 more American troops being deployed as part of President Bush’s “surge” strategy are in place, a high-ranking U.S. military official said yesterday. The remainder were to be deployed by early June, many in Baghdad, Rear Adm. Mark Fox told reporters.

Fox said at a news conference that quelling sectarian attacks nationwide could prove a lengthy enterprise. “The effort to exert security in Iraq will take time,” he said. “Our job will not be accomplished within days or weeks. … We are going to see more violence in the coming weeks and months.”

Amid the latest bloodshed, Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican seeking the GOP presidential nomination, told journalists that tangible improvements in the security situation in Baghdad were being underemphasized in news reports. McCain, visiting with a Republican congressional delegation, said improvements were apparent since the start of the security sweep in Iraq’s capital.

Hours earlier, two senior Sunni politicians narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Baghdad. The vehicle carrying Omar Abdul-Sattar and Omar Jabouri was hit by a roadside bomb as it went through the central Yarmuk district.

U.S. military officials said yesterday that two unexploded suicide vests had been found in the Green Zone but gave no details. Last week, a rocket attack killed two Americans in the closely guarded enclave that is the site of the U.S. Embassy and many Iraqi government installations.

A senior Iraqi military spokesman said a recent spike in sectarian attacks in provincial cities and towns is partly a consequence of tighter security in the capital. Last week saw what the government said was the single deadliest attack of the four-year-old war, a double truck bombing in the northern town of Tal Afar that killed 152 people, according to Iraqi officials.

U.S. and Iraqi officials have blamed recent attacks aimed mainly at Shiite Muslims on Sunni insurgents of al-Qaida.

In attacks yesterday, two car bombs struck outside an Iraqi army base on the edge of the northern city of Mosul, injuring 15 to 20 Iraqi security personnel. The Reuters news service said two civilians were killed.

In Diyala province, suspected Sunni insurgents set up a roadblock on a main road and kidnapped 19 people. And two people were killed in an explosion in a market town south of Kirkuk.

In Baghdad, where the bodies of those killed in sectarian violence are dumped daily, 17 corpses were recovered yesterday. All were men killed execution-style, most of them apparently shot at close range while their hands were bound.

John McCain (center) says security improvements are appar ent in Baghdad since the start of a security sweep in February.

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