A woman shouts following twin car bombs in Baghdad. Suicide bombers in two cars killed 26 people and wounded 53 in the Iraqi capital when they drove down a crowded street and blew themselves up simultaneously. (AFP/Khalil al-Murshidi) Note: accounts of precisely what happened vary.
Reported Security Incidents
Twin car bombs in Al-Yarmuk reportedly kill 26, injure 53. The bombs were parked near government offices that issue passports and identity cards, and many of the victims were waiting in line. A traffic police office is also nearby and many traffic police were also among the killed and injured. A branch of the Iraqi Commercial Bank was also damaged. Accounts are confusing, however, in that Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qassim al-Moussawi says the attackers were suicide bombers whose target was the bank, while reports generally say the cars were parked some distance apart from each other. The linked account makes both assertions in consecutive paragraphs without clarifying.
Decomposing bodies of 6 women and 2 men are found in a suspected brothel Zayouna district. Islamists enforcing moral strictures are suspected.
Three roadside bombs in Hurriya, a Shiite neighborhood in the north of Baghdad, kill 4 and injure 16 late Saturday. Also, Katyusha rockets kill 3 and injure 5 in Al-Obeidi. These incidents occurred too late for yesterday's post.
A man is killed and his wife injured by an apparent sticky bomb near Nissor Square.
Rural Irbil Province
Turkish air strikes kill a teenage girl, injure her mother and younger brother. The bombing was said to begin at 8:30 pm and last about 90 minutes, with attacks on seven villages. See below for developments in Turkey following recent clashes with PKK fighters.
The air strikes are accompanied by a ground incursion as Turkish forces advance 10 km into Iraqi territory in the Quandil mountains. There are reports of additional casualties but it is not clear whether they are fighters or civilians. According to some accounts, the civilian casualties noted in the above story were the result of ground fire rather than air strikes.
One killed, 3 injured when police fire at demonstrators protesting lack of electricity and potable water. "What happened this morning is because of the fake promises by the government to improve the essential services," said Hameed al-Timimi, a protester and Basra resident. "This is not just a problem in Basra, it is all over Iraq."
Body of an Iraqi soldier found in a parked car.
Other News of the Day
At a service for 11 Turkish soldiers killed in fighting with the PKK, PM Tayyip Erdogan vows the guerrillas will "drown in their own blood. This situation is growing very worrisome. Daren Butler reports for Reuters:
Separatist violence generally increases in southeast Turkey in the spring as the guerrillas cross the border from Iraq and there has been a notable escalation in the last two months. Military sources said on Sunday one Turkish soldier was killed and one injured overnight in a Kurdish rebel attack on a military outpost in the southeastern province of Elazig. They said the militants threw a hand grenade at the base before opening fire with rifles in the Palu district of Elazig.
The PKK, branded terrorists by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, said this month they had scrapped a year-old unilateral ceasefire and resumed attacks against Turkish forces because of military operations against them.
The ceasefire had come as Erdogan's government worked on plans to boost Kurdish rights to help end the conflict. However, the process has faltered and it suffered a setback in December when the Constitutional Court banned the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) over links to the PKK.
Liz Sly of the LA Times describes U.S. effort to build a joint Arab-Kurdish security force in Nineveh. Excerpt:
At Checkpoint 3, about 20 American soldiers live in small tents with Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iraqi soldiers, and help supervise the control of traffic into the town. Khazna, which had previously been protected only by a single peshmerga guard post, was the scene in August of a double suicide truck bombing that killed 35 people as they slept. Many residents feel reassured by the new post's heavy fortifications, said peshmerga Sgt Maj. Rashid Suleiman.
But he worries about what will happen to the new relationship between Iraqi and Kurdish forces when the U.S. troops eventually leave. ''There are no tensions between us now, but having the U.S. here to supervise us is a big boost,'' he said.
At stake is a belt of territory hugging the border of the self-governing region of Kurdistan. Occupied in 2003 by the Kurds, who want it to be annexed to Kurdistan, the disputed territory includes the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, as well as this hotly contested part of northern Nineveh province that last year teetered on the edge of outright war. . . .
But no progress has been made on bringing an end to a yearlong Kurdish boycott of Nineveh's Arab-controlled provincial government. Nor is there any resolution of the broader issues such as the future status of Kirkuk and other disputed areas, or the relationship between provinces and the central government. None of these major issues are likely to be settled at least until a new government is formed in Baghdad in the wake of March elections, something observers say could still be months away.
In many ways, the U.S. troops are marking time, waiting to see which will come first - a political settlement, or their departure, said Joost Hiltermann of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
A UN report says that while civilian deaths caused by ISAF have declined recently, deaths are up overall due to increased insurgent activity. "Especially alarming were increases in suicide bombings and assassinations of government officials in a three-month period ending Wednesday, and a near-doubling of roadside bombings for the first four months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009." Ironically, however, the same NYT article also tells us that "In violence yesterday, 10 civilians, including at least five women and children, were killed in NATO airstrikes in Khost province, the provincial police chief said."
U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke is in Pakistan. He says -- Surprise! -- that Mullah Omar and OBL are hiding near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Two explosions in Lashkargah kill 1 civilian and injure 19 people.
Six German soldiers injured by roadside bomb in Kunduz Province.
Afghan forces claim to have killed 14 Taliban in fighting in Nooristan, with two Afghan police injured. Afghan reports on these clashes always have such wildly asymmetrical casualty totals; it is impossible to say how credible they are, but given what we read elsewhere about the capacities of the Afghan police one should be doubtful. See next item. -- C
Ernesto Londoño of the WaPo reports on the state of Afghan forces in Kandahar. Excerpt:
As the U.S. military sets out to secure cities including Kandahar, it is relying far more heavily on Afghan forces than at any time in the past nine years, when the American mission focused mainly on defeating the Taliban in the countryside, rather than securing the population. But the Afghan forces are proving poorly equipped and sometimes unmotivated, breeding the same frustration U.S. troops felt in Iraq when they began building up security forces beset by corruption, sectarianism, political meddling and militia infiltration. . . .
On a recent patrol in the outskirts of Kandahar, [First Lt. James] Rathmann stopped at a police checkpoint that was recently ambushed. Officers were napping on an open field by the side of the road. "What is he doing to prevent his men from getting ambushed?" Rathmann asked the senior officer at the scene, through an interpreter. The groggy-looking officer didn't seem interested in discussing ambushes. Instead, he sheepishly asked the interpreter to ask Rathmann if the Americans had a spare pair of combat boots. . . .
The few instances in which Rathmann's men have managed to zero in on Taliban cells have led to disheartening outcomes. In some cases, their police counterparts have been unwilling to participate in raids.
"When it comes time to plan a mission, they all take out their phones and start making calls," said Staff Sgt. James Jackson, 25, of East Point, Mich. "Their body language says a lot. It makes us think they know more than they're telling us."
Quote of the Day
"Today, Washington is trying to shut down what it clearly regards as the most effective and dangerous purveyor of embarrassing information -- Wikileaks, a self-styled global resource for whistleblowers. It is a safe bet that NSA, CIA, FBI and other agencies have been instructed to do all possible to make an example of Wikileaks leader, Australian-born Julian Assange, and his colleagues. Much is at stake -- for both Pentagon and freedom of the press.
"Those who own and operate the corporate media face a distasteful dilemma, both in terms of business decision and of conscience. They must choose between the easier but soulless task of transcribing government press releases, on the one hand; or, on the other, following Wikileaks into the 21st century by adapting high-tech methods to protect sources while acquiring authentic stories unadulterated by government pressure, real or perceived.
Site information: We do not "censor" any comments. We delete comments which are completely off topic and designed only to disrupt commenting on this blog. Occasionally a comment will mention Iraq in some way but is generally nonsensical or contains highly offensive language and makes no meaningful contribution to discussion. Such comments may be deleted; it's a judgment call. Also, unexplained links to YouTube videos are deleted because we don't have time to check out whether they are serious -- the vast majority are not. If you want to link to a video, explain what it is. In deleting comments we may occasionally make a mistake or misconstrue someone's intent. It will be easier for us if people will not sign in as "anonymous" but adopt a screen name; it will also make for a meaningful discussion. Sometimes just the "anonymous" designation provokes a reflex to hit the delete button. So please don't use it if you aren't a troll. Thank you for your understanding. C.