Basra Car Bombings Kill 38 Civilians, Injure 98
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 21, 2004 A series of terror bombings in the southern Iraqi city of Basra today killed 38 civilians while wounding 98, according to a senior U.S. military officer.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Combined Joint Task Force 7's deputy operations director, reported this news today from Baghdad during an interview with Laura Ingraham on her syndicated radio program.
Twenty persons killed by the bombings were children, Kimmitt said. Car bombs hit three Basra Iraqi police stations and a training center.
Kimmitt said the bombings also claimed the lives of five Iraqi police and wounded 15 policemen.
Yet, despite recent acts of violence in Iraq directed against U.S. and coalition forces and Iraqis who support them, Kimmitt noted, the coalition has found "no shortage of volunteers" coming forward to join the Iraqi police, Civil Defense Corps or armed forces.
Kimmitt clarified the coalition's policy that has banned most former Baathists from joining Iraq's new armed forces, explaining that the goal is to keep high- level members of Saddam Hussein's regime out of the military and the government.
However, the general noted, the coalition's policy "was so encompassing it painted with a very wide brush." Now, he explained, just the three highest levels of former Baathists "are outlawed from participation in any of the government functions."
Former Baathists who served at lower levels within the now-defunct regime can now go through a vetting process, Kimmitt said, and, if successful, could secure jobs in the new government.
On plans to arrest militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for his part in the alleged murder of a fellow cleric, Kimmitt explained it's not a simple matter. Sadr "is fairly wily" and is surrounded by thuggish bodyguards, the general acknowledged. Sadr also has chosen to hole up in the holy city of Najaf, Kimmitt explained, "where he knows it would create quite an incident if we were to come in after him." Still, Kimmitt emphasized, Sadr "is going to be brought to Iraqi justice."
Despite hardships, U.S. forces realize the gravity of their service in Iraq, Kimmitt said.
"The mission is very, very clear," the general explained, "which is to bring a safe, stable environment to the people of Iraq so they can move on with democracy and can move on with sovereignty."
The general said the United States has made an investment in Iraq, which "has the promise of becoming a shining light in the Middle East."
U.S. Marines and soldiers understand the importance of removing "the poison of violence and extremism" from Iraqi society, Kimmitt noted, so that Iraqis "can have a chance to stand on their own."