Suicide attack in Baghdad targets reconciliation conference, kills 33

The bombing is the third major attack in recent days, prompting fears of a spike in violence.

A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

At least 33 people were killed in a suicide attack in Baghdad on Tuesday. This is the third major attack in the past few days, raising concerns of an uptick in violence in Iraq. US Army officials have stated that the recent attacks are simply a sign of desperation on the part of terror groups seeking to undermine security gains made in Iraq.

According to the BBC, the suicide attack targeted dignitaries who were attending a reconciliation conference.

At least 33 people, including a local army chief, have died and 46 have been injured in a suicide attack on the western edge of Baghdad, officials say.
The attack took place in the Abu Ghraib municipality, and appeared to target a group of dignitaries as they left a national reconciliation conference....
The bomb exploded as delegates came out of the conference, attended by a large number of VIPs.
Police sources said tribal leaders, police, soldiers and journalists were among the dead in the latest attack....
The municipal hall which hosted the conference is about 25km (15 miles) from the centre of Baghdad, and close to the Abu Ghraib prison facility which came under scrutiny following abuse of prisoners by US troops after the 2003 invasion.

Iraqi television journalists are believed to be among the dead, reports The Guardian.

One member of staff at Yarmouk hospital told Reuters that it had received the body of a journalist working for al-Baghdadiya, an independent television station.

According to CNN, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

No one has claimed responsibility for the strike, but in the past, such gatherings have been targeted by al Qaeda in Iraq, the anti-American Sunni Arab militant group….
The violence came after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Saturday rallied sheikhs of the nation's tribes to participate in Iraq's government.
It was the latest official effort to further reconciliation among Sunnis, Shiites and tribes of different sects and bring some former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party into the political fold.

The Associated Press reports that reconciliation meetings are increasingly common ahead of Iraqi elections, planned for the end of this year.

Such meetings between Sunni and Shiite sheiks have become common as the Iraqi government tries to promote reconciliation between the Muslim sects after years of sectarian violence that pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

Tuesday's suicide attack follows two others in the past few days. On Sunday, a suicide bomber killed at least 28 people, reported Time magazine. Before that, a car bomb in a cattle market in the province of Babel left 10 people dead.

Sunday's suicide attack by a bomber wearing an explosives belt and driving an explosives-laden motorcycle killed at least 28 people and wounded at least 57. It was directed at a familiar target – recruits at the Police Academy in central Baghdad....
Although violence is down to levels not seen since August 2003, Iraq remains a dangerous, combustible place — and there's been an uptick in violence in recent weeks. Some 258 Iraqis were killed in February, a 35% increase over January's total of 191, which was the lowest figure since 2003, according to government statistics.

A US Army spokesman has said, however, that the attack indicated the growing desperation of terror groups looking to destabilize Iraq, reports the BBC.

Maj Gen David Perkins, a spokesman for US forces in Iraq, told a news conference on Sunday that violence was at its lowest level since the summer of 2003.
He was also reported as saying the recent series of attacks was evidence that terror groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq were growing desperate as they sought to derail security gains in the country.

Ongoing security concerns are among the reasons that displaced Iraqis are reluctant to return to their homes, reported The Christian Science Monitor.

Although the government and international organizations have begun offering assistance to displaced people willing to return, their work has been slowed by bureaucratic hurdles, drought, and lingering security concerns. Even if stability continues to improve, most Iraqis say that it will be years before normalcy returns.

The suicide attacks in Baghdad follow Sunday's announcement by US President Barack Obama that 12,000 troops are to leave Iraq. However, US military commanders expect to maintain a significant troop presence in Iraq until 2010, reports Voice of America.

The second-ranking U.S. military commander in Iraq [Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin] says he expects to keep about 130,000 American troops in the country through the end of this year, when Iraq has a series of elections planned, and then to make a fairly rapid withdrawal of most of the troops by President Barack Obama's deadline at the end of August 2010…. 
U.S. officials have stressed the need to help Iraqi forces maintain security for local and national elections this year, and to further improve the capabilities of the Iraqi army and police.
President Obama says U.S. forces will no longer engage in routine combat missions after August of next year. Instead, they will train Iraqi units, [and] provide aerial surveillance and other support resources the Iraqis do not have and protect American troops and civilians. What the president calls the "residual force" of 35,000 to 50,000 troops would also conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions, as necessary.
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