Terrorists Seek to Intimidate Iraqi People With Car Bomb
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 28, 2004 The car bomb explosion outside a police recruiting station in Baqubah, Iraq, today is just the latest example of terrorists trying to intimidate the Iraqi people, DoD officials said.
Pentagon officials said the car bomb killed 45 Iraqis and wounded 94 others. Many of those killed and wounded were trying to sign up for the new Iraqi police.
"The strike on civilians underscores the insurgents real intentions of preventing a free and secure Iraq even at the cost of innocent Iraqi lives," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Joint Staff operations director said during a Pentagon press conference.
The car bombing was the biggest such incident since the turnover of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government June 28.
Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita said the tactic mirrors what Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been advocating. "(It is) no new tactic to attack soft targets," Di Rita said. "These people are clearly indicating that they intend to kill civilians to terrorize the country."
Officials said the Iraqi forces are picking up a larger share of the security mission. There are now between 225,000 and 230,000 Iraqis in the various security services: the Iraqi police, the Iraqi National Guard, the Infrastructure Protection Service, the Border Patrol and the Iraqi army.
Schwartz said the army now has about 5,000 men trained and equipped. "We've got 29 battalions of the Iraqi National Guard that numbers in the area of 45,000 or so, and they have been performing really quite well of late," he said.
There are roughly 75,000 police officers, and training for them is spotty. "For example, 6,000 or so personnel have completed the eight-week academy course," the general said. "Then there is a large number, about 25,000, who were former police who have gone through a three-week refresher course.
"So that leaves about half of the Iraqi police still not having attended an academy course," he continued. "But the bottom line is to work up that glide path of equipping, training and mentoring the Iraqi security forces so we can make the transition."
In the northern and southern areas of the country, this process is already happening, Schwartz said. It will take some time for the same to occur in the central area of Iraq. "We've got a long way to go," Di Rita said.
Coalition troops kept up their patrol pace, with 1,700 patrols over the past 24 hours. This included 268 with Iraqi forces.
Coalition forces found two large caches of weapons, including one that Marines found with more than 200 60 mm mortar shells hidden in wheat bags. "This find was especially significant in that 40 percent of the indirect-fire attacks use this caliber mortar round," Schwartz said.
Coalition forces have found more than 10,000 arms caches throughout the country and destroyed more than 150,000 tons of ammunition, officials said.