Rumsfeld Visits Iraq; Insurgents Launch Two Attacks
Both attacks targeted the Shiite community, raising questions about whether the Jan. 30 landmark elections will quickly lead to stability in the fractured country.
Insurgents detonated a car bomb outside a Shiite mosque in the town of Balad Ruz, northeast of Baghdad, as services ended and worshippers were leaving, killing 13 people and wounding 40, police Col. Tahseen Mohammed told the Associated Press.
According to eyewitnesses, a truck piled with vegetables was parked in front of the mosque, and as police approached it the truck exploded. Three children and a number of Iraqi National Guard troops are believed to be among the casualties, BBC news reported.
The second attack, which occurred earlier Friday, took place in a Shia-dominated neighborhood in the New Baghdad area. Gunmen in several cars blocked the street in front of a bakery with their vehicles, entered the shop and fired on the workers, killing 11 people, said an Iraqi police investigator, according to the AP.
Meanwhile Rumsfeld, on his eighth trip to Iraq, met with interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, spoke to American and Iraqi forces and watched Iraqi units in training.
“The professionalism of these units is advancing,” he said of the Iraqi forces as he watched an Iraqi counterterrorist team assault a compound in a demonstration that included live weapons fire, stun grenades and a squad of masked commandos rappelling from a helicopter.
Rumsfeld emphasized the importance of handing over security to Iraqi forces so American troops can return home. But he acknowledged that it takes time to train and equip the Iraqis.
“It is the Iraqis who will have to over time defeat the insurgency,” he said.
After reviewing an Iraqi army unit, Lt. Gen. N. Abadi, Iraq’s deputy chief of staff, told U.S. defense officials Iraq’s military needed two things: more equipment and time to get his forces trained.
Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the head of the effort to create independent Iraqi security forces, said Thursday at a NATO conference in Nice, France, that Iraqi military and police amounted to about 136,000 trained and equipped personnel. The goal is to reach 200,000 by Oct. 1, and ultimately create a force of over 270,000.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said recently that about 40,000 troops are capable of deploying around Iraq and operating directly against the insurgency. Analysts put the figure of effective counterinsurgency fighters much lower.
While Rumsfeld was visiting Iraq, President Bush talked by phone with Allawi.
“The two leaders discussed the new phase Iraq is in, following the elections, the progress being made to train and equip Iraqi security forces and the admirable performance by the Iraqi forces in the face of post-election violence,” said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.