View Full Version : Violence Marks Baghdad's 'Freedom Day'

04-09-06, 08:59 AM
Violence Marks Baghdad's 'Freedom Day'
BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 9, 2006

(CBS/AP) Six bombs exploded in Baghdad and central Iraq on Sunday, three years after the Iraqi capital fell to U.S. forces. Iraq police and soldiers bolstered security in Baghdad to prevent more attacks on "Freedom Day."

The holiday marks the anniversary of the April 9, 2003 event in which a huge crowd of Iraqis cheered as U.S. Marines hauled down the statue of Saddam Hussein on Firdous Square, marking the collapse of his regime.

The roadside bombings and a blast on a minibus left at least five people dead, and American troops killed eight suspected insurgents in a pre-dawn raid north of the capital. Drivers in the capital were stopped and searched by Iraqi forces at extra checkpoints.

Most Iraqis welcomed the end of Saddam's regime, but the insurgency, militias, rising sectarian violence, electricity shortages and political vacuum have all sapped much of the enthusiasm generated by the collapse of dictatorship.

"Iraqis are pleased and displeased," said Qassim Hassan, a soldier. "They are pleased because they got rid of tyranny and dictatorship, but they are displeased because they went from bad to worse. The Iraqi street is seething between sadness and terrorism."

Even U.S. officials acknowledged the mixed nature of the Iraq war's current stage.

"Despite much progress, much work remains," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George W. Casey, Jr. said in a joint statement. "The legitimate security forces must quell sectarian violence. Population centers must be secure to allow Iraq's new institutions to take root and businesses to flourish. Finally, the people must be able to trust their leadership."

Efforts to form a new government have reached a deadlock over the nomination of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Shiite politicians met Sunday to discuss opposition to al-Jaafari as their candidate for the position, but made no decision to replace him, officials said.

Instead, representatives from the seven factions of the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite bloc, formed a three member committee to discuss the deadlock with the Sunni and Kurdish parties "to be more certain" of the reasons for their opposition, according to Shiite official Ridha Jawad Taqi.

The Shiite alliance would meet again Monday to review the committee's findings, he said.

A Sunni politician, Saleh al-Mutlaq, suggested that Shiites pick an independent candidate for prime minister, one who does not come from one of the major political parties.

Until a new government is in place, the violence is not expected to decrease and the U.S. government is unlikely to begin troop withdrawal.

In a pre-dawn raid Sunday, clashes erupted when U.S. forces surrounded a suspected safehouse and nearby tent on the northern outskirts of Baghdad. After being fired upon, troops gunned down five suspected insurgents, and three others were killed in an air strike.
Bombs and weapons were found inside the house, a U.S. statement said.

In eastern Baghdad, a bomb left in a plastic bag on a minibus exploded on Palestine Street, killing two passengers and wounding five others, police said.

Other bombings around Baghdad killed a policeman and wounded about a dozen others, police said. One of the attacks targeted police near a Sunni mosque in the western neighborhood of Ghazaliyah, wounding at least three people, police said. Another targeted a convoy of American military police, but there were no casualties, the U.S. military said.

The "Freedom Day" holiday appeared to draw little public attention. The Iraqi Islamic Party issued a statement rejecting the day, saying April 9 remains "an anniversary of occupying Iraq, not liberating it."

Residents of Fallujah also rebelled against the holiday, keeping schools and offices open throughout the city that was once the stronghold of the Sunni-dominated insurgency.

An Iraqi who identified himself as Haidar agreed.

The Americans "didn't enter Iraq because of Saddam or because of freedom and democracy but rather to destroy Islam," he said.

As long as U.S. troops remain here, he said, "the war will not end."

But other Iraqis embraced the memory of Hussein's statue coming to the ground.

"This is a dear day, we got rid of the dictatorship," said Fadhil Abul-Sebah. "It doesn't mark the fall of Baghdad, it marks the fall of Saddam ... and the regime, because Baghdad will never fall."

On Saturday, a car bomb killed six people near a Shiite shrine south of Baghdad, and the death toll from the deadliest attack of the year rose to nearly 90. A senior official warned Iraq was in an "undeclared civil war" that can be curbed only by a strong government and greater powers for security services.

With sectarian tensions rising, U.S. Marines on Saturday beat back the largest attack in weeks by Sunni Arab insurgents in the western city of Ramadi — another sign of the crisis facing this country three years after Baghdad fell to U.S. forces.

The car bomb exploded at a small shrine in the Euphrates River town of Musayyib, 40 miles south of Baghdad. Police said most of the six dead and 14 wounded were Shiite pilgrims visiting the shrine.

Fears of more attacks are running high in Shiite areas following the Thursday car bombing that killed 10 in the Shiite holy city of Najaf and the suicide attack the following day against a Shiite mosque in Baghdad — the deadliest attack in Iraq this year.

The attacks on houses of worship have stoked tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, especially after the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, an act that triggered reprisal attacks against Sunni mosques and clerics.

Despite the violence, U.S. officials have discounted talk of civil war. However, a senior Iraqi official said Saturday that an "undeclared civil war" had already been raging for more than a year.

"Is there a civil war? Yes, there is an undeclared civil war that has been there for a year or more," Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal told The Associated Press. "All these bodies that are discovered in Baghdad, the slaughter of pilgrims heading to holy sites, the explosions, the destruction, the attacks against the mosques are all part of this."