Car Bomb Kills Dozens in Basra; Fighting Flares in Fallujah
Iraqi interior minister Sameer Sumaidie, according to The Washington Post, ”Today another crime, a massacre, has been committed.”
“They killed another group of innocent children to reach their victory. The terrorists want to leave Iraq in chaos.”
The killed and wounded were reportedly mostly Iraqi police and civilians, including the students whose bus was engulfed in one of the blasts. No coalition soldiers were reported killed, but four British soldiers were wounded in an attack on the police training academy.
The city’s governor told the Associated Press he believes the bombings were the work of al-Qaida terrorists and that two attackers were captured before they could detonate their explosives.
Basra is Iraq’s second largest city and is under the control of the British military. Wednesday’s blasts were the deadliest attack in the city since the end of the end of major combat more than a year ago.
West of Baghdad, an attempt to maintain a cease-fire in the Sunni-controlled city of Fallujah faltered late Tuesday when Marines came under attack from insurgents using rocket propelled grenades. The Marines returned fire and called in a helicopter gunship and tanks for support. Nine Iraqi insurgents were reported killed. Two Marines were wounded in the skirmish.
Sporadic fighting between coalition forces and insurgents has marked Fallujah’s fragile cease-fire. But the clashes have dropped off since Marines ended an offensive into the city that killed at least 600 Iraqis.
The Associated Press reported that the renewed fighting temporarily halted the return of families who had fled earlier fighting to their homes in the city, which remains cordoned off by coalition forces.
The clashes in Fallujah and attacks in Basra appeared to continue to fuel uneasiness among the coalition of nations aiding the U.S.-led occupation.
The Dominican Republic announced it was pulling its small contingent of troops out of Iraq, and Poland’s prime minister said his country was considering what to do with its 2,500 troops deployed there in light of Spain’s announcement earlier this week that it would remove its 1,300 troops from Iraq.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that Spain and others are leaving,” Prime Minister Leszek Miller, who will resign next month, said according to the AP. “I cannot say when we will leave (Iraq), but I’m sure the new prime minister will say something more precise.”
Poland is in charge of a 9,500-member international force in southern Iraq.
Miller said that his country “will not make any rash gestures,” and said problems in Iraq would best be handled by the United Nations.
“This conflict should be solved by political means, preferably under U.N. auspices. Many countries would get engaged (in Iraq) under U.N. auspices,” he said.
Later Wednesday, a government spokesman indicated Poland would likely maintain its forces in the nation for the time being.
“Poland will be in Iraq as long as it necessary, until the situation there is stabilized,” spokesman Marcin Kaszuba told The Associated Press. “Poland has not and is not considering a troop withdrawal.”