New Violence in Iraq
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MARGARET WARNER: Ed Wong, thanks for joining us on this Thanksgiving Day. We read there was a really horrific attack at a hospital south of Baghdad, tell us about it.
ED WONG: That’s right, Margaret, there was another very terrible suicide bomb attack today, just as there has been several times this week. A bomber in a car rammed into an American convoy, or tried to ram into an American convoy right outside a hospital in the town of Mahmoudiya, which is around 30 miles south of here.
What ended up happening was the bomber ended up killing around 30 Iraqi civilians and wounded dozens more. As far as we know, there were no American soldiers killed. Perhaps there were some injured. But most of the casualties were Iraqis. All the casualties were Iraqis, in fact. And it happened in an area that’s commonly known as the “triangle of death” because there have been so many attacks there both by bandits and by guerrillas.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, Mahmoudiya and the site of another bombing today, Hillah, are both mixed Sunni Shiite towns, is that where most of the violence is taking place?
ED WONG: What we are seeing is lot of the violence is taking place around the belt of towns where Sunnis and Shiites — both communities — you see those communities mixing. And what is going on is that you see struggles among different groups, different factions, extremist factions of both sides vying for control of these areas, as well as the neighborhoods in Baghdad. That’s where a lot of the guerrilla violence is taking place.
Then you also have militias or death squads that people say are sponsored by the Shiite government or by Shiite political parties that are also going after some of the Sunni groups in these areas. So you are seeing a lot of violence springing up.
MARGARET WARNER: We’re reporting tonight that just in the past six days now some 200, I think, Iraqis have been killed. Do Iraqi officials believe that this is part of the upsurge in violence in advance of the elections in three weeks that they had predicted? In other words, do they see a relationship?
ED WONG: That could be true that this could be related to the elections. But throughout the entire history of the post-Hussein era in Iraq, there have been sporadic spikes in violence sometimes related to political events, sometimes just in and of themselves.
The insurgents have the capability of striking for a sustained period over, say, the course of a week and causing a lot of casualties. Then what we’ll see is we’ll see a small quieting down of the violence. And then we might see the spike again. So while this was a very bloody week, one of the bloodiest probably in the entire war, we might see a small period of quiet before the violence ramps up once again before the elections.
MARGARET WARNER: There has been also, of course, the major American or major American and Iraqi offensive out in the West trying to keep foreign fighters from coming in through Syria, from Syria. Is there any evidence from your reporting, and I know it is a vast country and it’s hard to stay on top of all of this, but that that offensive has had any impact on the nature or type of the attacks that insurgents are able to carry out?
ED WONG: The American command gave us some statistics that show that there is a small dip in the number of suicide attacks throughout the country from the early summer to the late summer.
Now they say that foreign fighters are responsible for a lot of suicide attacks, so that the small dip in the numbers, according to their assertions, show that the operations in the West have been having some effect. Now in October that number went back up to the same average that it was before the late summer. So, in fact, there might not have been any affect at all from the operations. It’s still too early to tell because the operations are still ongoing and they’re just setting up some permanent garrisons in those towns.
At the same time we are seeing evidence that the suicide attacks might not be related to foreign fighters at all. For example, the bombings that took place in Jordan where we saw there some very angry Iraqis had gone from Iraq; they were angered by what the Americans had done here in Iraq and had gone from here to Jordan to carry out attacks in Jordan.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, Ed Wong of the New York Times, thank you so much.
ED WONG: Great, thanks a lot, Margaret.