RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
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Baghdad was the scene, yesterday, of a chemical attack. Iraqi insurgents have exploded a makeshift bomb - the third such attack in a month. The chemical was chlorine, which burns the eyes and skin, and can kill if inhaled. The use of chemicals in attacks is a new tactic, reflecting the adaptability of insurgent groups.
NPR's Anne Garrels reports.
ANNE GARRELS: The U.S. military now confirms a pickup truck carrying canisters of chlorine exploded in southwestern Baghdad yesterday, killing at least five and sending dozens more to hospitals. On Tuesday, a bomb destroyed a tanker truck filled with chlorine, north of the capital - killing nine and spewing fumes that made more than 140 sick, including women and children. And there has been at least one other attack with chlorine. In late January, 16 were reportedly killed after a pickup truck with the gas blew up in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province.
Killings and bombings have decreased in the center of Baghdad following the beginning of new security operations. But spokesman General William Caldwell says surrounding areas have since seen an increase.
Rape allegations by a Sunni woman, against Shiite-dominated police, continue to ignite anger, with Shiite and Sunni politicians exchanging charges and counter charges. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has dismissed the allegations, and he has fired a top Sunni official who has called for an international investigation.
A spokesman for the prime minister claims the alleged rape victim was aiding and abetting Sunni insurgents. He released what he said was a U.S. medical report indicating no signs of rape. General Caldwell has confirmed the woman was treated at a U.S.-run medical facility. But he said the U.S. has not released her records, and has launched its own investigation.
Another U.S. helicopter has been brought down by small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. The military says all nine people aboard were evacuated safely after making a hard landing north of the capital in Diyala province. The Mujahideen Army, a Sunni insurgent group in the area, immediately claimed responsibility.
This is the eighth helicopter shot down since January 20th, more than the total number of coalition aircraft shot down in all 2006.
U.S. officials say they have evidence indicating the recent attacks against American helicopters are the result of a carefully planned strategy by insurgents to concentrate on the Air Force.
Spokesman General Caldwell said there are now 2,700 additional American soldiers in Baghdad, with five more brigades expected by the end of May. He said the military was considering moving at least one of those brigades 20 miles north to Diyala, where violence has been picking up.
Anne Garrels, NPR News, Baghdad.
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