Attacks increase in Baghdad as Ramadan begins
BAGHDAD — A top U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday that the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan has ushered in a spike in attacks in the capital.
“This has been a tough week,” said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell IV during his weekly press conference on military operations in Iraq. “Over the past week, we have seen an increase in attacks, especially in Baghdad. The week’s suicide attacks were at their highest in any given week.”
Sectarian murders and executions, he said, remained the leading cause of civilian deaths in the capital. He declined to provide numbers or to say which of the city’s two predominant sects shouldered the burden of the murders.
Regarding death squad members who have been caught, he said, “We don’t make a differentiation in terms of what their sect is.”
When pressed by an Iraqi reporter, he also confirmed the killing of eight Iraqis — including four women — in an early morning raid Wednesday near the Sunni Triangle town of Baqouba. He did not give the cause of the raid, identify the American unit involved or elaborate on whom the targets may have been.
He did say the American soldiers were fired upon from the target home and from neighboring homes, and that an American aircraft ultimately dropped the munitions that killed the eight occupants and wounded two others.
“Any time you conduct an operation and there’s a loss of life, it’s very unfortunate,” Caldwell said.
He also praised continuing efforts in Operation Together Forward, the joint American-Iraqi plan to scour Baghdad of sectarian violence.
He said about $40 million had been spent on reconstruction projects in the operation’s six focus areas. Since the beginning of the operation in August, he said, the 60,000 American and Iraqi soldiers involved had searched more than 95,000 homes and 80 mosques, yielding 38 weapons caches and 124 detainees.
He added, “There’s definitely a downturn in the number of executions and murders in those areas we’ve gone into,” though he noted an exception to that trend over the past week in the western suburb of Ghazaliyah.
He did not say by what percentage deaths had increased in the area, saying only that it was small.