U.S. General Denounces Terror Attack on Iraqi Pilgrims
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2008 While much progress has been achieved against insurgents in Iraq in recent months, the terrorist bombing that killed dozens of religious pilgrims yesterday illustrates that much work remains, a senior U.S. military officer posted in Iraq said today. Video
Anti-insurgent efforts by coalition and Iraqi security forces and the contributions of concerned local citizens’ groups have achieved “operational momentum” against the terrorists, Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner told reporters at a news conference in Baghdad.
“Their collective efforts have certainly improved security for the Iraqi people in Baghdad and across Iraq, but there is still much work ahead of us,” Bergner, flanked by Iraqi Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, told reporters.
The extremists remain dangerous and seek to commit barbaric attacks, Bergner pointed out, citing yesterday’s terror bombing near the town of Iskandariyah that killed at least 40 religious pilgrims and injured nearly 70 others who were en route to commemorations in the holy city of Karbala.
“I want to join the government of Iraq and the United States Embassy in Baghdad in condemning yesterday’s attacks on innocent civilians making their way to Karbala,” Bergner said. “This indiscriminate violence against people participating in a religious commemoration again shows the danger of this al Qaeda in Iraq enemy.”
The bombing in Karbala demonstrates the importance of having coalition and Iraqi security forces work in tandem against the insurgents, Bergner said, citing the unity of effort in enforcing the law against terrorists and criminals during Operation Fardh al Qanoon.
During his portion of the news update, Atta cautioned religious pilgrims to travel only on security-force-patrolled routes and to report any suspicious packages they may encounter.
Atta also noted that Operation Fardh al Qannon had rounded up more than 9,500 suspects between the start of January to Feb. 15. About 2,800 of those detainees have been released, the Iraqi general added.
Defeating insurgents in Iraq “will require a sustained commitment,” Bergner emphasized. U.S. and Iraqi authorities are heartened that Shiite religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr has extended his organization’s cease-fire agreement against coalition and Iraqi security forces for another six months.
Sadr’s extension of his August pledge of honor to halt attacks “is an important commitment that can broadly contribute to further improvement in security for all Iraqi citizens,” Bergner said.
The extended cease-fire pledge also “can foster better prospects for national reconciliation and allow coalition and Iraqi security forces to focus more intensely on al Qaeda in Iraq,” Bergner added.