Two-Day Surge Of Bloodshed In Iraq

Iraqi police and soldiers remove the charred corpse of a suicide car bomber, Friday, Jan. 6, 2006, in central Baghdad, Iraq.
A spree of bloodshed that killed nearly 200 people in two days, including 11 U.S. troops, threatened a backlash from Shiite militias as Iraq's largest religious group rallied thousands Friday against what it claimed was American backing for Sunni Arab politicians who have supported insurgent groups. Meanwhile, al Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, said in a videotape aired Friday that the United States' decision to withdraw some troops from Iraq represented "the victory of Islam" and called on Muslims to attack oil sites.

Military officials announced the deaths of six more U.S. troops killed in the recent violence that's swept Iraq, bringing to 11 the number of Americans slain on the same day.

In Baghdad's sprawling Sadr City slum and in its northern Kazimiyah suburb, thousands of angry Shiites rallied to condemn twin suicide attacks Thursday that killed at least 136 people, including the U.S. troops.

The protesters also denounced what they claimed was American backing for Sunni Arabs politicians who have supported insurgent groups and are now protesting that last month's elections were tainted by fraud.

Final results from the Dec. 15 elections could be released next week and they are expected to show the religious Shiite United Iraqi Alliance with a strong lead. They Shiites will, however, require support from Kurdish and Sunni Arab political groups to form a viable coalition government.

In other developments:

  • Gunmen kidnapped a female American journalist and killed her Iraqi translator in western Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said Saturday.
  • About 5,000 Shiites rallied in Baghdad to protest the bloodshed and denounce what they said was American backing of some Sunni politicians who have supported or at least failed to condemn insurgent groups in order to bring them into a broad-based government. Shiites in the Sadr City slum chanted slogans against U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and moderate Sunni Arab leaders such as Adnan al-Dulaimi. Most of their ire was directed at hard-liners such as Saleh al-Mutlaq, head of the Sunni Arab National Dialogue Front, who complained of widespread fraud in the Dec. 15 elections.
  • In new violence Friday, a suicide car bomber struck a police patrol in Baghdad, killing one officer, Col. Noori Ashur said.
  • By highlighting recent economic advances in a speech Friday, President Bush took an opportunity to turn attention away from the conflict in Iraq. "By the way, we're going to win the war," he added as an aside.
  • Elsewhere, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw held talks in southern Iraq with local officials on forming a broad-based coalition government. Straw's unannounced visit was an "opportune time to get an up-to-date report on what's happening with the political discussions and the security situation" in the four provinces under British responsibility, according to the spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with Foreign Ministry protocol.
  • The three main attacks Thursday all took place within an hour. The death toll was the largest single-day total since Sept. 14, when 162 died. The U.S. Embassy said it was appalled by the attacks. "This terror aims simply to kill innocent Iraqis and provoke further conflict between them," the embassy said.
  • A Thursday suicide blast near the Imam Hussein shrine killed 63 people and wounded 120. That day's other attack took place in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, and killed 58.
  • A U.S. Marine and soldier died in the Ramadi attack by a suicide bombwe who infiltrated a line of police recruits. Two soldiers were also killed near Baghdad when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb. Two U.S. Marines were killed by separate small arms attacks while conducting combat operations in Fallujah.
  • The military had previously announced the deaths of five soldiers hit by a roadside bomb south of Karbala.