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Iraqi Police Investigated for Possible Ties to Mass Kidnapping

A 700-member Iraqi police squad has been barred from duty because of suspected links to the kidnapping of 24 workers that occurred earlier in the week. A reporter provides an update on the situation.

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    Now, two looks at the violence in Iraq. In addition to the sectarian killings of Iraqi civilians, the past five days have been especially bloody for U.S. troops. For an on-the-ground look at these and other developments, I spoke earlier today with Richard Oppel of the New York Times in Baghdad.

    Rich Oppel, welcome. We're hearing from at least one senior commander in Iraq that this has been a very hard week. By my count, eight U.S. soldiers killed in the last 24-hour period, 15 since Saturday, 74 in the month of September. Is there any concern being expressed about why these numbers seem to be spiking?

  • RICHARD OPPEL, New York Times:

    Well, that's right, Gwen. In fact, we just received word that there were an additional four deaths north of Baghdad today, all American soldiers. Earlier today, the top American spokesman in Iraq, General William Caldwell, said there had been 18 deaths in 96 hours, plus now there's four more that have just been reported.

    I think the perspective here is that, with this operation that the Americans started about six or seven weeks ago, or nearly two months ago, to go through and try to clean out some of the worst Baghdad neighborhoods, that that has exposed troops more and that there's a direct linkage to this increase in deaths that we've seen.


    Is this increase limited to Baghdad, or is it also in other areas, like Ramadi and other areas throughout the country?


    Well, certainly, Ramadi and all of Anbar Province have continued to see a high number of deaths. I think the number of Marines in Anbar just in the last few days has been at least five, so that's been the case there for some time. Anbar remains, as much of Iraq is, a phenomenally dangerous region.

    But I think — I'm not sure of the precise numbers — but I think certainly in Baghdad there's been a spike. I mean, the death count Monday in Baghdad of eight, that was the highest single-day total for Baghdad in about 13 months.


    Is there any thought being given to part of this being because Americans are being targeted as part of some new strategy?


    Well, al-Qaida, in their statements over the Internet, they've called on their fighters to increase the targeting of Americans. But, you know, the American strategy has been to slowly attempt to get Iraqi troops more in fore, more on the frontlines.

    But certainly with this operation in Baghdad that's been under way since August 7th, that's called for more American exposure and more American troops doing frontline fighting here in the capital. And that's certainly part of the reason that we've seen this spike.