BAGHDAD (AP) - An explosion at a Shiite mosque in Baghdad killed
at least eight worshippers Monday, the fourth anniversary of the
start of the war, while a series of car bombs struck the oil-rich
city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, killing 12, police said.
A poll conducted for the anniversary found that the optimism
that helped sustain Iraqis in the initial years of the war has
dissolved into widespread fear and anger, and less than a fifth of
those asked said they have confidence in U.S. and coalition troops.
Reflecting on the anniversary, Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice staunchly defended going to war in Iraq, but acknowledged the
Bush administration likely erred by failing initially to send
enough troops to quell the civil strife that followed the overthrow
of Saddam Hussein.
The latest attacks highlighted the challenges facing U.S. and
Iraqi forces seeking to curb sectarian bloodshed with a month-old
security crackdown that has led to a drastic drop in
execution-style killings but failed to stop the bombings.
The afternoon blast in Baghdad shattered windows and damaged a
wall of the small green-domed mosque situated among shops in the
central Shorja market area, where a truck bomb killed 137 people
Police said the explosion was caused by a bomb placed in the
corner behind the preacher's podium, leaving a crater and a pile of
rubble on the floor, with a clock that was knocked off the wall.
The preacher was among the 32 people wounded, police said.
Gheith Jassim, the 32-year-old owner of a textile shop near the
mosque said he rushed to the mosque in a panic because he feared
his brother had planned to attend prayers there. His brother had
missed the prayers, but Jassim found a scene of carnage.
"When I arrived, I saw several wounded people being taken by
ambulances and they were screaming from fear and injuries. There
were bloodstains on the wall and some carpets were burned," he
said in a telephone interview.
Jassim said some worshippers at the scene were cursing Sunni
extremists and he agreed they were behind the attack as part of
their effort to stoke sectarian conflict.
"We are not saved from them even during prayers. They want to
ignite Sunni-Shiite strife," Jassim said.
Iraqi authorities have imposed strict security in the area to
prevent car bombings that often target crowded markets.
About an hour later, four blasts occurred in a 35-minute period
in different areas of Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, killing
at least 12 people and wounding more than 30.
A car bomb exploded near a market in a predominantly Arab
neighborhood, killing eight people and wounding eight, police Brig.
Sarhad Qadir said. A mortar shell landed on a house in the same
area, wounding five civilians, he said. There is a police station
about 500 yards from the site, and the attack's target was not
AP Television News video showed a pockmarked bus nearby that
appeared to have been shot up, with passengers and the driver
killed in their seats.
A parked car packed with explosives then blew up as a police patrol passed by in a mixed Kurdish and Turkomen area in the center of the city, killing four policemen and wounding 19 people, according to Qadir, while another parked car bomb exploded near the
house of an Iraqi army officer, wounding two people.
Many blame the recent increase in violence in Kirkuk on
insurgents who have fled the security crackdown in Baghdad. The
city, which Kurds hope to incorporate into their autonomous zone,
is also the center of an ethnic power struggle.
Provincial Gov. Abdul-Rahman Mustafa accused insurgents of
trying to destabilize the area by provoking hostilities among the
varied ethnic and religious groups in the mixed community.
"They want the Kurds, Turkomen and Arabs to clash with each
other. One day they explode bombs in a Kurdish area, the next day
they target Turkomen or Arab neighborhoods," he said. "Whenever
there is a pressure on the insurgents in Baghdad, they move to
Kirkuk and other cities."
After four years and more than 3,200 deaths of U.S. troops, Rice
said patience still is required and asserted anew that the Iraqis
are making headway in completing the transition toward democracy.
Asked on CBS' "The Early Show" to say what the administration
could have done better, Rice replied, "I don't know. When we look
back over time we will know the answer to that question."
But she did say the United States, early on, "might have looked
to a more localized, more decentralized approach to
"And I do believe that the kind of counterinsurgency strategy
in which Gen. (David) Petraeus is now pursuing, in which we have
enough forces to clear an area and hold it, so that building and
governance can emerge, is the best strategy. And that probably was
not pursued in the very beginning," she said.
The poll, conducted for ABC News and media partners USA Today,
the BBC and ARD German TV, portrayed an increasingly pessimistic
Iraqi population under great emotional stress. Among the findings:
- The number of Iraqis who say their own life is going well has
fallen from 71 percent in November 2005 to 39 percent, and more
than half have curtailed activities like leaving their homes and
going to markets.
- Only 18 percent of Iraqis have confidence in U.S. and
coalition troops, and 86 percent are concerned that someone in
their household will be a victim of violence.
- Slightly more than half - 51 percent - now say that violence
against U.S. forces is acceptable - up from 17 percent who felt
that way in early 2004. More than nine in 10 Sunni Arabs in Iraq
now feel this way.
- About four in five Iraqis oppose the presence of U.S. troops
but only a third want those U.S. troops to leave Iraq immediately.
In other violence, Khalaf Ghargan, the mayor of the small Shiite
village of Dijelah, some 100 miles southeast of Baghdad, was
kidnapped on his way to work, and his bullet-riddled body was later
found along a highway, police and morgue officials said.
Gunmen also attacked a police checkpoint northwest of Samarra,
60 miles north of Baghdad, killing one policeman and wounding three
others, police said.