TOPICS > World

Surge of Violence Revives Concerns Over Iraqi Security Forces’ Readiness

August 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: And we turn to the uptick in violence in Iraq.

Margaret Warner has the story of Monday’s widespread attacks.

MARGARET WARNER: It was the bloodiest day Iraqis have suffered this year — 42 apparently coordinated attacks rocked the country from north to south. At least 70 people were killed and more than 200 wounded in more than a dozen cities. Bombings claimed most of the lives, though there were shootings, too.

The worst hit came in Kut, where multiple bombs detonated at a marketplace, killing at least 35 Iraqis.

MAN (through translator): A bomb exploded here, and when people gathered 10 minutes later, a car bomb detonated, too.

MARGARET WARNER: Car bombs struck the upscale Mansour neighborhood of the capital, Baghdad, wounding a number of people.

MAN (through translator): I don’t know how the car entered this area because there are so many checkpoints in Mansour.

MARGARET WARNER: Explosions also hit a police station in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, killing seven. And last night in Yusufiyah, gunmen in military uniforms invaded a mosque and murdered seven members of an anti-al-Qaida Sunni militia. The gunmen shouted they belonged to an al-Qaida-linked group, the Islamic State of Iraq.

The attacks were the latest in a surge of violence since the beginning of the year. But, in Washington Monday, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland noted, the violence is nothing like it was a few years back, when Iraq came close to sectarian civil war.

VICTORIA NULAND, State Department spokeswoman: We remain concerned about these kinds of terrorist acts in Iraq, and we are working closely with our Iraqi partners to address them. In net terms, though, overall, the violence in Iraq is significantly down this year over previous years.

MARGARET WARNER: Still, Monday’s attacks revived questions about the abilities of Iraq’s security forces. The remaining 50,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to withdraw by Dec. 31. But, just two weeks ago, the Iraqis opened talks with the U.S. about having some American forces stay longer.