Sunday, March 11, 2007
Iraqis run for cover as smoke billows from the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's Karada neighbourhood. Insurgent attacks have claimed another 58 Iraqi lives, including 31 Shiite pilgrims slaughtered in a car bomb attack on a convoy returning from a religious festival.(AFP/Wisam Sami)
Suicide car bomber rams truck bringing pilgrims back from Karbala, killing 32 and injuring 24. AFP (see below) reports that five of the injured are in critical condition. (This AP report also refers vaguely to "a bomb-rigged car and a suicide bomber with an explosives belt packed with metal fragments that together killed five in Baghdad." It is not clear whether this refers to incidents reported more specifically below.)
- A car bomb attack targeting a police checkpoint in Baghdad's southeast Karrada district killed two civilians and wounded six others, police said.
- Two civilians were killed when unknown gunmen shot them south of Baghdad in the district of Mashru, police said.
- A U.S. drone for air surveillance went down in Ur district in northeastern Baghdad, police said. The U.S. military confirmed that a drone was recovered but it was intact.
- The Iraqi army arrested 53 suspected insurgents in Baghdad, the Defence Ministry said.
- U.S.-led forces captured 15 suspected insurgents in raids around Iraq targeting al Qaeda and militants working with foreign fighters, the U.S. military said.
A scar bomb near the Talbiyah bridge in eastern Baghdad killed a civilian and wounded three others,, a source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. Xinhua also reports car bomb on Arasat Street in Baghdad's southern neighborhood of Masbah wounded five civilians.
Baladruz (Diyala Province)
Five labourers were killed when a bomb ripped through their bus near Baladruz, police lieutenant Mohammed Salim said. Ten other labourers were wounded, he added.
Reuters also reports: Gunmen wearing army uniforms killed two men in a drive-by shooting in the town of Mussayab, 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
al-Siba (south of Basra)
"Al-Siba police found the body of an Iranian soldier who drowned in the Shatt al-Arab river," the source, who declined to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The Iranian's body was in military uniform and the identification found with him indicated his name: Hadi Ahmed," the source said, adding "a large sum of money was also found with him." (Note: This is an odd story, which I would view skeptically. This story also refers to Iranian infiltrators arrested earlier. It seems improbable that Iranians in military uniform, carrying ID, would be trying to wade across the Shatt al-Arab. I would be interested in knowing which militia controls that area -- C)
Late on Saturday, a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt blew himself up at a reception of the Iraqi Islamic Party's headquarters in the al-Ghzlani area southwest of Mosul,' Muhammad Shaker al-Ghannam, head of the local party's branch told Xinhua. The blast killed three desk clerks at reception and wounded two guards, he said.
Other News of the Day
By correspondents in Baghdad March 11, 2007: US forces opened fire on an unarmed Iraqi family's car and killed a father and his two young daughters, the man's wife said today. The US military confirmed that three Iraqis were killed and three more wounded in yesterday's shooting in east Baghdad, after the car's driver ignored or missed signals for him to stop.
“They just opened fire randomly on us,” said Akhlas Abduljabbar, a Sunni housewife from Zafaraniyah, south of Baghdad, whose family was travelling through the war-torn city. “They killed my husband and two daughters and my three-year-old boy was wounded in the head. " The Americans' translator told me 'Flee, don't stay, they're going to kill you',” she added.
Mrs Abduljabbar identified her dead husband as Rifat Abduljabbar and the daughters as Fatima, 11, and Hafsat, 12. She said she had heard that some Iraqi bystanders were also hurt.
The US military said the vehicle failed to respond to paratroopers' warning signals as it approached their patrol in the Adhamiyah security district. “The paratroopers followed established protocol for escalation of force but the vehicle continued to advance toward them forcing them to disable it with small arms fire,” it said. “Three Iraqis were wounded and three were killed in this incident. The wounded were provided immediate medical assistance. Iraqi police and national police secured the area and Iraqi police evacuated the wounded. “The incident is under investigation,” it said.
Bush approves a further escalation of U.S. troop strength in Iraq, adds 4,700 to the 21,500 previously announced; also sends 3,500 more to Afghanistan, bringing U.S. forces there to an all-time high. Asks Congress for $3.2 billion to pay for the increases, doesn't say where it will come from. Excerpt:
By Peter Baker, Washington Post Staff Writer. Sunday, March 11, 2007; Page A01 ANCHORENA PARK, Uruguay, March 10 -- President Bush approved 8,200 more U.S. troops for Iraq and Afghanistan on top of reinforcements already ordered to those two countries, the White House said Saturday, a move that comes amid a fiery debate in Washington over the Iraq war.
The president agreed to send 4,700 troops to Iraq in addition to the 21,500 he ordered to go in January, mainly to provide support for those combat forces and to handle more anticipated Iraqi prisoners. He also decided to send a 3,500-member brigade to Afghanistan to accelerate training of local forces, doubling his previous troop increase to fight a resurgent Taliban.
Although officials had foreshadowed the additional forces for Iraq in recent days, the latest troop increase in Afghanistan had not been known and will bring U.S. forces there to an all-time high. The deployments underscore the challenges facing the United States in both countries and further stretch an already strained military. In Iraq particularly, the moves could fuel suspicions that a troop increase initially described as a temporary "surge" may grow larger and last longer than predicted.
Bush did not comment on his decision during the second day of a six-day Latin America tour. But aides released a letter he signed Friday night aboard Air Force One as he flew to Uruguay from Brazil, asking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for $3.2 billion in emergency funding to pay for the additional units. He proposed cuts in other spending to offset the cost.
"This revised request would better align resources based on the assessment of military commanders to achieve the goal of establishing Iraq and Afghanistan as democratic and secure nations that are free of terrorism," Bush said in the letter.
The president's decision came as congressional Democrats are struggling to find a way to reverse direction in Iraq. Bush aides said this week that the president would veto a House Democratic spending plan that would require him to certify that the Iraqi government has met certain benchmarks by certain dates to keep U.S. forces in the country. The plan would require, under any circumstance, that troop withdrawals begin March 1, 2008, and that remaining troops be out of combat roles by Aug. 31, 2008.
Pelosi blasted Bush on Saturday. "With his veto threat," she said, "the president offers only an open-ended commitment to a war without end that dangerously ignores the repeated warnings of military leaders, including the commander in Iraq, General [David H.] Petraeus, who declared in Baghdad this week that the conflict cannot be resolved militarily."
German woman kidnapped in Iraq on Feb. 6 with her son is shown on Internet video. Woman tearfully describes threats to kill her son and her if German does not give in to kidnappers demands to remove its troops from Afghanistan. Germany has not said what the people were doing in Iraq. Excerpt:
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - An Iraqi insurgent group threatened to kill a German woman and her son kidnapped in Iraq unless Germany withdrew its troops from Afghanistan within 10 days, according to a video posted yesterday by the group.
The video, from a previously unknown group calling itself the "Arrows of Righteousness," shows the abducted woman, identified as Hannelore Marianne Krause. She wears a blue scarf over her head, has eyeglasses and is shown seated on the floor, next to her grown son.
"I am here threatened by these people. They will kill my son in front of my eyes, then they will kill me if the German forces do not pull out of Afghanistan," she sobbed, speaking in German as an Arabic translation scrolls over the screen. The woman appeals to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to respond to the kidnappers’ demands.
Iran Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini comments positively on yesterday's brief security conference in Baghdad. Not clear when or where a follow-up conference at the Foreign Minister level might take place. Excerpt:
TEHRAN, Iran AP: Iran's Foreign Ministry on Sunday said an international conference in Baghdad that saw Tehran and Washington hold direct talks for the first time since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was constructive and a first step toward promoting security and stability in the war-torn country. Tehran also expressed hope that a proposed second, follow-up meeting on Iraq would be successful, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini.
"If such a conference to be held at the foreign minister level happens in the near future in Baghdad, then it is possible to expect success," Hosseini told reporters. Hosseini declined to say if Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki would attend the proposed second meeting.
The spokesman said Saturday's meeting in Baghdad included "constructive negotiations" among the delegations and could be considered a "first step" in promoting security and stability in Iraq. Hosseini also said Iran was ready to support any plan that would help end the bloodshed in its neighboring country. "Leaving security affairs to the Iraqi government, arranging a timetable for the departure of foreign forces, and taking an indiscriminate approach to all terrorist groups can bring peace and security in Iraq," Hosseini said.
Despite Hosseini's optimistic words on Sunday, during the Baghdad meeting Saturday, the U.S. and Iranian envoys traded harsh words and blamed each other for the country's crisis. During the talks, U.S. envoy David Satterfield pointed to his briefcase which he said contained documents proving Iran was arming Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq.
"Your accusations are merely a cover for your failures in Iraq," Iran's chief envoy Abbas Araghchi shot back, according to an official familiar to the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
U.S. acknowledges that the body of Major Troy Gilbert, F-16 pilot shot down on Nov. 27, was taken by insurgents. Decries attempts to exploit Gilbert's death by the Islamic State in Iraq.
Iraq VP Tareq al-Hashimi arrives in Tehran for talks, after a four day trip to Syria. Turkish Commander Ilker Basbug says over 3,500 members of the Turkish Kurdish guerrilla movement PKK are active in northern Iraq (i.e. Kurdistan), says they have been infiltrating into Turkey.
In-Depth Reporting and Analysis
Paul Beaver in Fort Lauderdale and Peter Beaumont Sunday March 11, 2007: The US army is lagging behind Iraq's insurgents tactically in a war that senior officers say is the biggest challenge since Korea 50 years ago.
The gloomy assessment at a conference in America last week came as senior US and Iraqi officials sat down yesterday with officials from Iran, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in Baghdad to persuade Iraq's neighbours to help seal its borders against fighters, arms and money flowing in. During the conference the US, Iranian and Syrian delegations were reported to have had a 'lively exchange'. In a bleak analysis, senior officers described the fighters they were facing in Iraq and Afghanistan 'as smart, agile and cunning'.
In Vietnam, the US was eventually defeated by a well-armed, closely directed and highly militarised society that had tanks, armoured vehicles and sources of both military production and outside procurement. What is more devastating now is that the world's only superpower is in danger of being driven back by a few tens of thousands of lightly armed irregulars, who have developed tactics capable of destroying multimillion-dollar vehicles and aircraft.
By contrast, the US military is said to have been slow to respond to the challenges of fighting an insurgency. The senior officers described the insurgents as being able to adapt rapidly to exploit American rules of engagement and turn them against US forces, and quickly disseminate ways of destroying or disabling armoured vehicles.
The military is also hampered in its attempts to break up insurgent groups because of their 'flat' command structure within collaborative networks of small groups, making it difficult to target any hierarchy within the insurgency.
The remarks were made by senior US generals speaking at the Association of the US Army meeting at Fort Lauderdale in Florida and in conversations with The Observer. The generals view the 'war on terror' as the most important test of America's soldiers in 50 years.
'Iraq and Afghanistan are sucking up resources at a faster rate than we planned for,' one three-star general said. 'America's warriors need the latest technology to defeat an enemy who is smart, agile and cunning - things we did not expect of the Soviets.'
Other officers said coalition rules of engagement were being used against the forces fighting the insurgency. 'They know when we can and cannot shoot, and use that against us,' said one officer, reflecting the comments of US soldiers in the field. Another said recent video footage of an ambush on a convoy, posted on the internet, was evidence that insurgents were filming incidents to teach other groups about American counter-measures.
Complaints emerge in the UK about treatment of injured troops, reminiscent of the ongoing scandal in the U.S. Excerpt:
By Alex Berry The Telegraph: Troops wounded in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan have made a series of complaints about the appalling treatment they have been receiving on NHS wards. Letters sent to Ministry of Defence officials and health chiefs reveal the despair of service personnel and their families at the level of care in civilian hospitals.
One letter details how Jamie Cooper, 18, the youngest soldier wounded in Iraq, was forced to spend a night lying in his own faeces after staff allowed his colostomy bag to overflow. On another occasion his medical air mattress was allowed to deflate, leaving him in “considerable pain” overnight despite an alarm going off, according to the letter from his parents. Others complain of pain relief arriving hours late, wrong tablets being given out and MRSA infections.
Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, said that troops injured in conflict should receive the best possible treatment, amid wider concerns about the quality of military care. "Where there are individual cases that fall short of the very high standards that I and others demand, then we need to address these and I will address them. They are unacceptable," he told the BBC1 Politics Show. He said an investigation was underway into the case of Jamie Cooper.
Lord Guthrie, the former Chief of Defence staff, told the Observer: “The handling of the medical casualties from both Afghanistan and Iraq is a scandal.” Prime Minister Tony Blair and other senior figures who had visited the hospital had been presented with a “whitewashed version”, he added. Military and political leaders seemed “more interested in finding excuses for why things are not good than in correcting them”, Lord Guthrie said. Conservative defence spokesman Liam Fox accused the Government of “an act of betrayal against our bravest soldiers”.
The publication of the letters came as new figures revealed British troops who suffered mental illness after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan were having to wait up to 18 months for treatment.
Whisker's Round-up of the Wounded
(I've just selected six today in the interest of space. As always, there are plenty more where these came from -- C)
Adam Poppenhouse, 21, lost part of a leg as the result of a roadside bombing Dec. 3. Poppenhouse's right leg was amputated above the knee, and his left foot was seriously injured. In late February at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center -- using a computerized prosthetic leg and his fused and braced foot, and with the aid of a walker and canes -- Poppenhouse walked using both legs for the first time since he was wounded. Before that, he had been walking using the prosthetic leg only.
Andrew Kinard, a Marine second lieutenant, lost his legs and suffered massive internal and external injuries in October. He has spent grueling months in surgery and physical therapy to rehabilitate his ravaged body.
A U.S. Marine from Bellefonte who was critically wounded in Iraq last month has taken steps toward recovery but at the same time developed new life-threatening complications, according to his mother. Marine Cpl. David Emery Jr., or "D.J.," is in intensive care at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., suffering from a long list of severe wounds and related illnesses after a suicide bomb attack in Anbar province in Iraq on Feb. 7. His legs were essentially shattered, as was an arm, by the suicide blast, which killed another Marine. Emery also suffered a severe abdominal wound. The Marine remains on a ventilator and undergoes dialysis because his kidneys are not functioning on their own. While Emery is now aware of his surroundings and able to communicate by pointing to letters of the alphabet, he has developed a blood infection that is causing veins and other blood vessels to collapse, said Connie Emery, the injured Marine's mother. "It's breaking his body down," she said in a telephone interview from Bethesda, Md., where she and her son's pregnant wife, Leslie, have been staying as guests of the Marine Corps. "(His doctors) don't know how much more of this he can take. The body can only take so much." Emery has been in and out of surgery for days, mostly to clean still-open wounds and to deal with collapsing blood vessels due to infection.
Lance Cpl. Brian Vargas was injured Jan. 17 in Hit while on patrol in Iraq. Vargas was on a rooftop searching for insurgents when a sniper's bullet tore through his left hand and hit his right cheek. He was facing straight forward when the bullet struck him. There was shrapnel in his eye, tongue, cheek and jaw. Vargas said he has trouble speaking, memory loss and attention-span problems. Although doctors removed the shrapnel from his hand, some remains in his face.
U.S. Army Pfc. Michael Brown, 24, was shot during an early morning raid in an alleyway in the city of Ramadi on Feb. 20. He was assigned to lead the troops as they searched for insurgents believed to be hiding out in the city, Brown's father Steven said. "He was the point man for the unit," Steven Brown said. "He kicked in a door (in the alley) and was shot in the back." The bullet entered Brown's lower back below the Kevlar vest he wore and exited through the front of his abdomen, Brown said. The gunshot was the second time Brown was injured in combat in 10 weeks. The first was a roadside bomb blast that broke his leg, arm and resulted in a concussion, Brown said.
Navy veteran and paraplegic Mark Mix, 36, was injured three years ago in Iraq. Mix, who served as a petty officer third class in the Seabees - the U.S. Navy's Construction Batallions - initially was injured during a firefight in the Philippines in 2002, and was later paralyzed from the waist down in 2004 after a mortar attack in Iraq crushed four of his vertebrae, he said.
Quote of the Day
On most flights, as soon as that bulkhead door opens, there is a scramble to get off the plane. On Flight 1220, even though the door was open, an entire planeload of adults sat silently, waiting for the body to be removed. I witnessed the flag-draped coffin of one of our finest slowly carried away by six Navy officers. I did not witness a single dry eye on the plane. I heard a woman nearby say, "Why must America's most honorable die for a decision made under less than honorable pretenses?" I will never forget what I saw that night: real pain and sorrow from average Americans for a young soldier whom none of us have ever met. Somewhere out there are this boy's parents, deeply mourning their loss. Sadly, our government's efforts haven't just insulated the public from the mounting losses; the families of the soldiers are unable to see and feel the people who mourn alongside them. The leaders on Capitol Hill continue to fight about if and when to bring our troops home from the Iraqi debacle. But until they make the correct decision, our soldiers will continue to come home one by one -- in the cargo holds of planes just like Delta Flight 1220.
Business traveler John J. McSheffrey Jr., describing his flight from Atlanta to Boston Note: Mr. McSheffrey also managed to take a photo with his cell phone of the coffin being removed from the plane, surrounded by a Navy honor guard. Ordinarily we are not permitted to see this. Unfortunately, the Globe has not made the photo available on the web.