Iraq War, Three Years On

Iraqi women walk pass a roadside shop selling clocks in the form of children, in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, March 18, 2006. (AP Photo/Mohammed Hato)
Three years ago, in the early hours of March 20th, the U.S. invasion of Iraq began – a first-strike war which the Bush administration argued was necessary because of the threat it said was posed by weapons of mass destruction allegedly possessed by Iraq.

This morning, long after the toppling of Saddam Hussein's government, the sounds in Iraq were much like any other day in the past few years of the war: a roadside bomb exploded in central Baghdad near a prison Monday, killing at least two Iraqi police commandos and a civilian.

The bombing, just a few hundred yards from an Interior Ministry prison, seriously damaged a vehicle carrying the troops. Police say at least four other commandos were injured in the attack.

Sunday, American troops clashed with gunmen north and west of Baghdad and insurgents lobbed a mortar round into the holy city of Karbala where a million Shiite pilgrims assembled for a major religious commemoration.

Iraqis in the capital expressed unease with the increasing violence, which they said they hoped would have ended by now.

"It is a painful anniversary. We were expecting that Iraq would get better," Munthir Rasheed said. "But it is completely in reverse. Iraq has passed through three years which are the worst in its history."

Police said eight civilians, including a child, were killed in clashes between U.S. troops and gunmen in Duluiyah, 45 miles north of Baghdad. The town is in the Sunni Arab heartland where the Iraqi army and U.S. soldiers opened an airborne campaign last week to hunt for insurgents.

During operations in Duluiyah, U.S. troops arrested Col. Farouq Khalil, an Iraqi interior ministry official, after raiding his house, police said.

The U.S. military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Earlier it said dozens of suspected insurgents had been detained. The Iraqi government said that 17 suspects were released after questioning and that the "search for terrorists and weapons" continued in that region.

Members of the Iraqi Red Crescent said U.S. troops, citing security concerns, prevented them from delivering relief aid to beleaguered communities in the area.

Elsewhere, two civilians were killed and 10 wounded when gunmen attacked U.S. troops stationed at the governor's office in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad. Firefighters were seen pulling furniture from a burning house set ablaze in the crossfire.

In the capital, police found the bullet-riddled bodies of three men bound hand and foot and dumped in a sewage treatment plant in the southeast neighborhood of Rustamiyah. The victims appeared to be the latest in the wave of revenge killings set off by the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.

Assailants in southwest Baghdad also gunned down a man as he was leaving a Shiite mosque, police said.

Those deaths came a day after a dozen other suspected victims in the shadowy Shiite-Sunni reprisal spree were found in the capital.

In other recent developments:

  • Demonstrators around the globe marked the third anniversary of the war with protests.
  • President Bush is continuing another series of speeches on Iraq. Monday, speaking at the City Club of Cleveland, Mr. Bush also plans answer questions from the audience. White House press secretary Scott McClellan says the president will update Americans on his vision for Iraq - highlighting the progress being made while acknowledging that not everything has gone perfectly.
  • Debate continues over the state of Iraq after three years of war. The president and Bush administration officials paint an optimistic picture, but former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi says his country is already fighting a civil war.
  • British Defense Secretary John Reid, commenting while visiting troops in Iraq, rejected Allawi's comments. "Every single politician I have met here from the prime minister to the president, the defense minister and indeed Ayad Allawi himself," said Reid, "said to me there's an increase in the sectarian killing, but there's not a civil war and we will not allow a civil war to develop."