String of suicide bombings in Iraq
The attacks, including the deadliest to hit Baghdad since August, came days after US military delivered an upbeat report on security in the country.
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The suicide bombing was one in a string of attacks Tuesday, reports The New York Times, including one on a police patrol in the same Baghdad neighborhood. At least 40 people were killed across Iraq "just hours after revelers celebrated the new year in public places for the first time in years."Skip to next paragraph
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The Zayuna blast was unusual not only for its heavy toll but also for its location: a neighborhood that has a large Iraqi military and police presence with many checkpoints and barriers intended to prevent attackers from entering to the area. An Iraqi military base is also near the site of the bombing, a mixed area of Shiites and Sunnis.
Mohanad Saleh, who owns a travel and transport company in the capital's middle-class neighborhood of Zayouna near the site of the blast, described the scene as "horrifying."
... "It's a terrible thing to happen to mourners who were already experiencing grief due to the loss of their loved one," Saleh said. "Now they face this terrorism. It's a very agonizing thing to start the first day of the year with."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued New Year's Day greetings the same day on Al Iraqiya television, calling the conclusion of 2007 an "end of triumphs and success," and saying the new year will be one of reconstruction and economic development," the L.A. Times reported.
The bombings came days after the top American military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, gave a positive if cautious assessment of the security situation in the country. Gen. Petraeus said Saturday that violent attacks in Iraq had "fallen by 60 percent in June, but cautioned that security gains were 'tenuous' and 'fragile,' requiring political and economic progress to cement them," The New York Times reported.
Speaking to reporters in an end-of-year briefing at the American Embassy in Baghdad, General Petraeus said that coalition-force casualties were down "substantially," and that civilian casualties had fallen "dramatically."
"The level of attacks for about the last 11 weeks or so has been one not seen consistently since the late spring and summer of 2005," he said.
... He also credited the Iraqis' own "surge" of more than 100,000 soldiers and police officers, the rejection of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia by the Sunni awakening movement in former insurgent strongholds, and the cease-fire by the Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia loyal to the cleric Moktada al-Sadr, although he said some "splinter elements" continued to operate.
The data presented, compiled from both US and Iraqi records, "showed a sharp fall in civilian deaths from their peak between mid-2006 and mid-2007, the rate of decline appeared to level off in the past two months," reports The New York Times.
In related news, the Iraqi government "took a small step towards national reconciliation by sending a draft amnesty bill to the parliament speaker," reports Al Jazeera.