|This hardly matches the rhetoric we have been fed on security in Iraq....|
Coordinated Attacks Strike 13 Towns and Cities in Iraq
By ANTHONY SHADID
BAGHDAD — In one of the broadest assaults on Iraq’s security forces, insurgents unleashed a wave of roadside mines and a more than a dozen car bombings across Iraq on Wednesday, killing dozens, toppling a police station in the capital and sowing chaos and confusion among the soldiers and police officers who responded.
The withering two-hour assault in 13 towns and cities, from southernmost Basra to restive Mosul in the north, was as symbolic as it was deadly, coming a week before the United States declares the end of combat operations here. Wednesday was seemingly the insurgents’ reply: Despite suggestions otherwise, they proved their ability to launch coordinated attacks virtually anywhere in Iraq, capitalizing on the government’s dysfunction and perceptions of American vulnerability.
For weeks, there had been sense of inevitability to the assaults, which killed at least 51 people, many of them police officers. From the American military to residents here, virtually everyone seemed to expect insurgents to seek to demonstrate their prowess as the United States brings its number of troops below 50,000 here. But the anticipation did little to prepare security forces for the breadth of the assault. Iraqi soldiers and police officers brawled at the site of the biggest bombing in Baghdad, and residents heckled them for their impotence in stopping a blast that cut like a scythe through the neighborhood.
“A bloody day,” Khalil Ahmed, a 30-year-old engineer, said simply, as he stared at the cranes and bulldozers trying to rescue victims buried under the police station.
“From the day of the fall of Saddam until now, this is what we have — explosions, killing and looting,” he said. “This is our destiny. It’s already written for us.”
The assaults began at 8:20 a.m. when a pickup truck packed with explosives detonated in a parking lot behind the police station in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Qahera. The police station collapsed, and the blast sheared off the top floors of nearby homes. Windows were shattered a half-mile away. One family was pulled out alive. Hours later, cranes and bulldozers tried to remove others trapped beneath the rubble.
Police officers kept angry residents from entering the scene.
“You get millions of dinars in salaries and you won’t let us help our families?” one youth shouted.
Another cried, “You just take money and don’t care about us!”
An Iraqi investigator walked by the scene.
“This is the state?” he muttered. “This is the government?”
Twice, soldiers and police officers brawled at the scene, and shots were fired in the air.
The rest of the capital was snarled with traffic, as police and army vehicles, sirens blaring, tried to break through the traffic jams. American soldiers in Humvees and armored vehicles, with a token Iraqi escort, drove through parts of the city.
For weeks, insurgents have carried out a daily campaign of bombings, hit-and-run attacks and assassinations against the security forces and officials, seeking to undermine confidence in their ability to secure the country. They remained the target Wednesday in attacks in Falluja, Ramadi, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Basra, Karbala, Mosul and elsewhere.
In one of the worst assaults, in the southern city of Kut, Iraqi officials said a car bomb detonated by its driver killed 19 people and wounded 87, most of them police, in an attack that destroyed the police station near the provincial headquarters.
In Diyala Province, five roadside bombs detonated in the morning in Buhriz, the first against a police patrol, a second against reinforcements who were heading to the scene and three others intended for houses belonging to policemen, officials said. They were followed by a car bombing that struck the provincial headquarters in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, killing three people. Another car bombing struck a hospital in nearby Muqdadiya.
“The beginning of the storm,” said Saleh Khamis, a 38-year-old teacher in Buhriz.
In Ramadi, a car bomb tore through a bus station, killing eight people.
Under a deadline set by the Obama administration, the United States has brought its number of troops here to a little below 50,000, a presence it intends to maintain through next summer. The administration and the American military have sought to portray the partial withdrawal as a turning point in the American presence here, insisting that Iraq’s army and police are ready to inherit sole control over security here.
Military officials have said they believe that insurgents only number in the hundreds, and the military has issued a daily drumbeat of announcements that leaders and cadres in the insurgency have been arrested in American-Iraqi operations.
“The message the insurgents want to deliver to the Iraqi people and the politicians is that we exist and we choose the time and the place,” said Wael Abdel-Latif, a judge and former lawmaker. “They are carrying out such attacks when the Americans are still here, so just imagine what they can do after the Americans leave.”
The attacks come amid deep popular frustration with the country’s politicians, who have failed to form a government more than five months after elections in March. Shoddy public services, namely electricity, have only sharpened the resentment.
At the scene of the bombing in Baghdad, residents grimly swept up glass from storefronts. Others milled among the dozens of police and army vehicles. No one seemed to express optimism; most said they were bracing for more of the same.
“The situation doesn’t let us live our lives here,” said Mahmoud Hussein, a 26-year-old mechanic. “No water, no electricity no security. Every day it gets worse.”