Iraq Security Measures Failing, Iraqis Say

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Amid a flurry of fatal bombings, many Iraqis say U.S.-led attempts to increase security in Baghdad are failing. Critics say additional checkpoints simply mean larger crowds — and make for bigger targets.


In Baghdad, another car bombing today. Several people died when a car loaded with explosives rammed a fuel truck. And the high death toll from yesterday's series of car bombs in Baghdad is still rising. Iraqi officials report 169 people were killed by a string of blasts around the city.

Iraq's prime minister accused what he termed the Soldiers of Satan of carrying out the attack. Yesterday's blasts are the latest to raise questions about the effectiveness of the Baghdad security plan.

NPR's Tom Bullock has more from the capital.

(Soundbite of crowd noise)

TOM BULLOCK: The aftermath of a massive car bomb in the Sadriyah market. This was the most devastating of the five car bombs in Baghdad yesterday. Ahmed(ph) was near the explosion. He asked we not use his last name because he fears for his safety.

Mr. AHMED: (Speaking foreign language)

BULLOCK: I was five minutes away, he says, but the blast was so strong I felt like I was right next to it. When I got to the scene, 40 cars were burning in the street.

The Sadriyah market is one of the busiest in Baghdad, and it has been hit before. In early February, a truck bomb there killed 130. But that was two weeks before the start of the Baghdad security plan.

Now more than two months into the troops surge despite thousands more U.S. and Iraqi troops on the ground, countless more checkpoints, new neighborhood bases and much tighter security throughout the capital, the Sadriyah market was hit again. Ahmed says the plan isn't working.

Mr. AHMED: (Speaking foreign language)

BULLOCK: The checkpoints are just making larger crowds and more casualties, Ahmed says. The Iraqi soldiers aren't searching the cars. They just seem to be directing traffic. Ahmed is not alone. More and more Iraqis are openly criticizing the security plan. Others are calling it a failure.

Many had remained cautious, even optimistic, on the troop surge after there were no major attacks during the first 72 hours the plan was in place. Sectarian attacks also dropped dramatically in the city. But the low didn't last.

One week ago today, two high profile attacks showed insurgents had found ways of penetrating Baghdad security. A truck bomb collapsed a steel bridge in north Baghdad at the start of morning rush hour. Then, a few hours later, a man in a suit detonated hidden explosives in the Iraqi parliament, somehow getting past checkpoints, metal detectors, and bomb-sniffing dogs set up to protect the building in the heart of the Green Zone.

Major General William Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, says the investigation is still underway.

Major General WILLIAM CALDWELL (U.S. Army): The government of Iraq obviously does have an ongoing investigation. They do have our Federal Bureau of Investigation supporting them. But they'll come forth with a final announcement.

BULLOCK: Sectarian attacks in Baghdad have also increased back to pre-surge levels. The Baghdad morgue is again reporting an average of 40 bodies a day showing signs of torture and execution. Over the last seven days, Iraqi officials confirmed more than 400 have been killed in insurgent and sectarian attacks in Baghdad alone, more than 500 others wounded. Sadik Al-Rikabi(ph), an adviser to Iraq's prime minister, blames former Baathists and terrorists for the jump in violence.

Mr. SADIK AL-RIKABI (Adviser to Iraq's Prime Minister): They tried to kill the innocent people in order to provoke any sectarian reaction, because the Baghdad security plan reduced the sectarian tension. And this is a significant result from the Baghdad plan.

BULLOCK: The number of U.S. casualties has also risen. At least 17 American troops have been killed in combat over the last seven days.

Tom Bullock, NPR News, Baghdad.

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