Attacks On G.I.s, Iraqis At 2 Year High

Iraqis carry a coffin with a body of their relative in front of the Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2006. AP Photo/Samir Mizban

Attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops and Iraqi civilians jumped sharply in recent months to the highest level since Iraq regained its sovereignty in June 2004, the Pentagon told Congress on Monday in the latest indication of that country's spiraling violence.

In a report issued the same day Robert Gates took over as defense secretary, the Pentagon said that from mid-August to mid-November, the weekly average number of attacks increased 22 percent from the previous three months.

The worst violence was in Baghdad and in the western province of Anbar, long the focus of activity by Sunni insurgents.

The military said Tuesday that a Marine died the previous day from wounds sustained from enemy action in Anbar, bringing to 61 the number of American military personnel killed in Iraq in December.

The Marine, whose name was withheld pending family notification, was assigned to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable.

At least 2,950 members of the U.S. military have died since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

At a ceremonial swearing-in attended by President Bush, Gates warned that failure in Iraq would be a "calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility and endanger Americans for decades to come." He said he intended to go to Iraq soon to get the "unvarnished" advice of U.S. commanders on how to stabilize the country.

A bar chart in the Pentagon's report to Congress gave no exact numbers but indicated the weekly average had approached 1,000 in the latest period, up from about 800 per week from the May-to-August period. Statistics provided separately by the Pentagon said weekly attacks had averaged 959 in the latest period.

The report also said the Iraqi government's failure to end sectarian violence has eroded ordinary Iraqis' confidence in their future. That conclusion reflects some of the Bush administration's doubt about the ability of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to make the hard decisions U.S. officials insist are needed to quell the violence.

"The failure of the government to implement concrete actions in these areas has contributed to a situation in which, as of October 2006, there were more Iraqis who expressed a lack of confidence in their government's ability to improve the situation than there were in July 2006," it said, calling for urgent action in Baghdad.

In other developments:

  • Prosecutors in Saddam Hussein's genocide trial showed of gassed children lying in a field and villagers fleeing clouds of white smoke, arguing Tuesday that the former president and his regime used chemical weapons against the Kurds of northern Iraq in the late 1980s. "These children are the saboteurs that the defendants talk about," prosecutor Munqith al-Faroon said sarcastically as the footage showed scores of dead children on the ground, partially covered by blankets.

  • Insurgents detonated a bomb at a medical facility flying a Red Crescent flag and planted more explosives in the building, but security forces removed them safely, the U.S. military said Tuesday. There were no reports of casualties. The Iraqi Red Crescent shut down its Baghdad operations Monday, a day after gunmen seized 30 of the aid group's workers and volunteers

  • Gunmen in military uniforms raided a bank in downtown Baghdad on Tuesday morning, stealing more than one billion Iraqi Dinar (US$709,000), police said. The attackers drove up in four vehicles, jumped out and started firing their weapons into the air, police said. They handcuffed guards outside the bank, stole the money and then fled, police said.

  • Britain's support for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has put the public at greater risk of terrorist attacks, the main opposition Conservative party leader David Cameron said Monday — opening a division on the issue with Prime Minister Tony Blair. Cameron, setting out interim findings of a security policy review, said his belief the threat to Britain was now greater as a result of the war was "a statement of fact."

  • Late Monday, gunmen with rocket-propelled grenades attacked two Sunni mosques in Ghazaliyah, a neighborhood in western Baghdad, but armed residents forced them to flee, authorities said. Police said there were no reports of casualties.

  • Private guards in sport utility vehicles helped Iraq's former electricity minister escape from a police station in Baghdad where the dual U.S.-Iraqi citizen was being held on corruption charges, officials said. Ayham al-Samaraie walked out of the detention facility Sunday with private security experts who once protected him, the deputy head of Iraq's Public Integrity Commission, said Monday.
    • Sean Alfano

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