Scores Killed Wave of Iraqi Attacks
Rebels bent on disrupting a handover to Iraqi rule bloodied five cities Thursday with coordinated assaults on local security forces in which about 75 people, including three U.S. soldiers, were killed. The violence in Baquba, Falluja, Ramadi, Mosul and Baghdad intensified a sustained campaign by Iraqi insurgents and foreign militants to sabotage Iraq’s formal transition from U.S.-led occupation to an interim government in six days’ time.
Scores of black-clad gunmen, some claiming loyalty to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, attacked a police station and other government buildings in Baquba, 60 km (40 miles) northwest of Baghdad, in a dawn assault.
A U.S. military spokesman said two American soldiers had been killed in an ambush. U.S. forces had responded with air strikes after gunmen captured the civic center and attacked another government building. Two insurgents were killed.
Many of the fighters wore yellow headbands bearing the name of a Muslim militant group “Saraya al-Tawhid and Jihad” (Battalions of Unification and Holy War). They handed out leaflets warning Iraqis not to “collaborate” with Americans. “The flesh of collaborators is tastier than that of Americans,” the leaflets said. Arabic television channel Al Jazeera showed hooded fighters brandishing their weapons in Baquba and saying they were followers of Zarqawi. Bodies lay in the streets nearby. Zarqawi’s Jama’at al-Tawhid and Jihad group has claimed responsibility for many attacks in Iraq, including this week’s beheading of a South Korean hostage.
Iraqi insurgents launched an apparently coordinated offensive against U.S. occupation forces and Iraqi security posts in a number of locations Thursday, setting off continuing battles that killed at least 69 people, including more than 20 Iraqi police and three U.S. soldiers. The attacks, an unusual display of ability to stage simultaneous assaults, were the broadest and largest-scale so far in an insurgent campaign of bombings and assassinations in the weeks leading up to the June 30 transfer of a limited form of sovereignty to the Iraqi Interim government.
According to the Associated Press, a statement quoted by a Saudi Web site Thursday claimed responsibility for the Baqubah attacks in the name of Zarqawi and warned the city’s residents to “comply with the instructions of the resistance.” The statement also told people to stay home “because these days are going to witness campaigns and attacks against the occupation troops and those who stand beside them.”
One hopes this will help the counter-insurgency. At some point, it has to become painfully clear that these people are mainly killing Iraqis, not outsiders. If ordinary citizens stop harboring the insurgents and begin feeding intelligence to the authorities, there is a good chance of beating it. Until that happens, there will be a lot more killing.