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Bombings Show Security Challenges, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2009 – Terrorist bombings that struck Baghdad yesterday demonstrate the security challenges that exist there, a senior Defense Department official said here today.

News reports say more than 150 Iraqis died and hundreds more were injured yesterday as a result of two massive blasts that targeted the Iraqi justice and municipalities and public works ministries and a provincial headquarters building in downtown Baghdad.

“I think what it says is that security remains a challenge, particularly when you have folks that are willing to … create that type of carnage with a large explosion in an indiscriminate kind of way,” Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said in response to a reporter’s question.

Most of the victims were innocent civilians, Whitman noted.

Media reports cite yesterday’s suicide-vehicle attacks as the deadliest the Iraqi capital experienced since April 18, 2007, when multiple bombings there killed nearly 200 people and injured 250.

President Barack Obama described yesterday’s attacks as outrageous acts that targeted innocent people. He pledged the United States would support the Iraqi people and their government as the country prepares for nationwide elections in January.

Iraqi authorities blamed al-Qaida insurgents and Iraqi Baath Party diehards -- the party of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein -- for the latest attacks.

Baghdad also came under attack on Aug. 19, when bombings at the Iraqi government’s finance and foreign ministries killed at least 100 people and wounded hundreds more.

Insurgents in Iraq want to conduct such high-profile attacks because they believe large-scale violence will incite sectarian strife and bring down the Iraqi government, Army Brig. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, Multinational Force Iraq’s deputy chief of staff for strategic effects, told reporters Oct. 22 during a news briefing at the Washington Foreign Press Center.

However, the insurgents have failed to divide the Iraqi people, Lanza said at the briefing. Iraqis, he said, are embracing the rule of law and demonstrating their desire “to coalesce around being Iraqi.”

Meanwhile, violence in Iraq is at its lowest levels since 2003, Lanza said. This situation, he said, reflects the “continued improvement in Iraq’s security environment, through the combined efforts of Iraq and U.S. forces.”

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