RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
In Iraq, Thanksgiving Day was a violent one. More than 50 people were killed in attacks across the country. The worst incident occurred outside a hospital some 15 miles south of Baghdad. A suicide bomber steered his car at a group of US soldiers who were handing out candy and toys to children. Almost all of the dead were women and children. Washington Post reporter Ellen Knickmeyer joins me now from Baghdad.
And what more can you tell us about this latest suicide attack in Iraq, this one involving the soldiers and the kids and the women who were with them?
Ms. ELLEN KNICKMEYER (Washington Post Reporter): Unfortunately, it's one of many that have targeted hospitals, and the idea in these attacks has been to hit US soldiers and Iraqi security forces, but also to maximize civilian casualties. And our understanding is only one of the dead was an Iraqi police officer. There were four Americans wounded, and all of the rest of the dead and the injured were Iraqi civilians. There were men and women and children who were taking teddy bears from the soldiers.
Iraqi mothers were telling reporters of their children coming to this toy giveaway and then having to come and get the bodies of their children afterward. And there were so many dead that there was no room left in the hospital, and they put them out in the hospital garden.
MONTAGNE: Now Iraqi and American officials have repeatedly warned of an increase in violence leading up to the parliamentary elections this December 15. What steps are being taken to try and contain the violence?
Ms. KNICKMEYER: There are daily operations going on in the west, and there's been a real increase in operations all around the country. From what I can tell, it's not that there's an increase violence for the election, it's that there's a daily increase in violence overall since a new government took office this spring.
MONTAGNE: Now there is a report of possible peace negotiations between insurgent groups and the government in Baghdad. What do you know about that?
Ms. KNICKMEYER: That's from the country's Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani. But I can tell you that the Shia parties that make up the majority of the government, the Shia religious parties, they are adamantly opposed to negotiations with any insurgent groups. So the idea of negotiations is going to face real problems.
MONTAGNE: And then just finally the trial of Saddam Hussein is beginning again on Monday. What's the latest on that?
Ms. KNICKMEYER: The first witnesses for the prosecution are set to testify on Monday. So that means that Saddam Hussein and some of the members of his former regime are going to be confronted with the people making accusations and mass killings against them.
MONTAGNE: Washington Post reporter Ellen Knickmeyer, speaking from Baghdad. Thanks very much.
Ms. KNICKMEYER: Yeah, you're welcome.
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