Twin Suicide Blasts Take High Toll in Iraq

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Two suicide bombings in Hillah, south of Baghdad, leave at least 27 Iraqis dead. The bombers joined a group of Iraqi police officers, then detonated explosives. Dozens of people were injured. Los Angeles Times correspondent Carol Williams offers details.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR West and Slate magazine online, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, mothers with children serving in Iraq gather strength from each other.

First, the lead. From Iraq, more grim numbers: 720 people, including 70 US troops have died in the spiraling violence of the last month. It's the worst single month for US troop casualties since January. And today just south of Baghdad, two suicide bombers detonated themselves in the middle of a crowd; they killed more than two dozen people and injured more than 100. That's on top of five suicide bombings yesterday that killed scores of people. Joining us from the Los Angeles Times Baghdad bureau is Carol Williams.

Carol, what is the latest there?

Ms. CAROL WILLIAMS (Los Angeles Times): Well, the twin suicide attacks in Hilla today south of Baghdad have actually driven the toll from this month beyond 750. There's just been a barrage of suicide attacks and car bombs that have taken out dozens of police officers and Iraqi national guardsmen, particularly during this week's sweep through the capital intended to hobble the insurgency. There's been a very strong counterattack by the forces that are the al-Qaeda in Iraq.

CHADWICK: Your article in today's paper describes what happened. The government had decided to launch what it called Operation Lightning, and this was to go after foreign Arab fighters in Baghdad, try and round them up and drive them into these checkpoints that the government had set up all around the city. Instead something else happened. Describe it, would you?

Ms. WILLIAMS: Well, what's happening is that the foreign fighters, as well as the Iraqi insurgents who make up the great majority of the insurgency, have been attacking these very checkpoints that were established to ensnare them. The attacks seem to have abated somewhat in the capital today. There hasn't been the level of gunfire and small arms exchanges and, you know, street-to-street fighting that we heard all day yesterday. But this attack in Hilla is thought to be connected with the counterattacks by the insurgents against the government's attempt to rein in their mayhem.

CHADWICK: What are US and Iraqi military leaders saying about this turn of events, if anything, and what are they doing to try to counteract this real increase in these suicide bombings?

Ms. WILLIAMS: Their spin is that this shows the weakness of the insurgency that they are having to attack softer targets now, to go after the, you know, less-protected Iraqi police and national guard convoys instead of the US and coalition forces, which are better protected, you know, the defenses have been built up pretty well around military installations.

CHADWICK: There had been this lull in the violence after the election at the end of January. Can anyone in the government say whether it is the lull that is normal or is it the current level of violence that is normal in Iraq? Is there a normal?

Ms. WILLIAMS: I'm not sure there is a normal. I think the lull, such as it was, was more a result of the insurgents having no visible leadership to attack. Once the government was seated on April 28th, they had an enemy.

CHADWICK: Carol Williams, reporting from Baghdad for the Los Angeles Times.

Carol, thank you.

Ms. WILLIAMS: Thank you.

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