Officials believe violence will unite Iraqis
BAGHDAD — Spokesmen for the Iraqi government and the U.S. military said Sunday that a recent string of terror attacks against city bridges, Iraq’s parliament and a religious site in Karbala bore the earmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq, yet insisted that the violence would unite Iraqis instead of divide them.
“Terrorism has failed. I don’t think these car bombs can stop the political process inside or outside the parliament,” said Dr. Zuhair Chalabi, a spokesman for the Iraqi government.
“We see what was intended to divide and destroy as being a catalyst for unity,” said Navy Rear Admiral Mark I. Fox.
The press briefing, held within Baghdad’s Green Zone, follows several days of explosions and bloodshed.
On Thursday, a suicide bomber killed an Iraqi lawmaker and injured 20 other people when he triggered an explosive in the cafeteria of the Iraqi Parliament building within the heavily guarded Green Zone. On the same day, a car bomb destroyed Baghdad’s Sarafiyah Bridge, a historic structure spanning the Tigris River.
On Saturday, the same day legislators convened at the bomb- damaged parliament building in a gesture of defiance, militants detonated a car bomb in a crowd of people near a sacred Shiite Muslim shrine in Karbala southwest of Baghdad and exploded a second car bomb on another Baghdad bridge. This bomb caused no structural damage to the much- traveled Jadriya Bridge, authorities said.
On Sunday, two car bombs exploded minutes apart in a Baghdad market in a mainly Shiite district, killing at least 18 people, according to The Associated Press.
The use of car bombs and attacks against infrastructure are tactics commonly associated with al-Qaida in Iraq, Fox said. The targeting of bridges appeared to be a new tactic in its campaign to derail Iraq’s fledgling democracy, he said.
“Despite these brutal attacks, the Iraqi people have shown tremendous strength and resolve,” Fox said. “Less than 24 hours [after the parliament bombing] the council was back at work, and they met yesterday as well.”
The attacks occurred as U.S. and Iraqi security forces enter the second month of a new Baghdad security plan — a campaign aimed at quelling violence between Sunni and Shiitte Muslims.
On Sunday, Fox said that during this time, authorities had seen a steep drop in the number of sectarian murders and kidnappings committed in Baghdad, but had also seen an increase in the number of car bombings.
To date, three of the five additional U.S. Army brigades slated for Baghdad have arrived, with the rest expected to arrive by the end of June, Fox said.
Also, he said, 54 of some 76 planned joint security centers and neighborhood outposts have been established throughout the city.