Iraq violence flares as US begins to draw down troop levels
The killing of five policemen in Baghdad on Tuesday came as President Barack Obama vowed again to fulfill an agreement with the Iraqi government to lower US troop levels from 80,000 to 50,000 by the end of August.
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Assailants shot dead five Iraqi policemen at a road checkpoint in Baghdad on Tuesday, getting August off to a grim start just days after the local government said July was Iraq’s deadliest month in two years.
The attacks come amid a drawdown of US forces and political instability in Iraq. Iraqi politicians are still fighting over who should become prime minister because of unclear results in the March elections and there is speculation that insurgents are taking advantage of the discord.
News reports did not say how many attackers were involved in Tuesday’s shooting, which took place early in the morning. They fired guns with silencers and left behind a black flag to represent the Islamic State of Iraq, says CNN, the call sign of an umbrella group with alleged links to Al Qaeda. The same flag was planted last Thursday, after suspected Al Qaeda militants attacked another checkpoint and killed 16 Iraqi officers.
Also Tuesday, in several separate incidents around the Iraqi capital, roadside bombs wounded a total of six people and mortar rounds damaged a building, CNN reports.
While the number of US service members killed or wounded in Iraq has been on the decline, according GlobalSecurity.org, the July death toll for Iraqis was the highest in two years. The Iraqi health ministry announced Saturday that 535 people were killed and 1,043 were wounded across the country last month, says the Voice of America.
Maliki offers to stand down
Some have blamed the recent wave of violence on the political impasse in Iraq’s Parliament. On Monday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sought to avoid public criticism, saying in a televised interview that he will not seek a second term if another candidate is agreed upon, Reuters reports.