More Than 60 Die in Suicide Attacks in Iraq Iraq suffered four suicide attacks Wednesday that killed more than 60 people. Alex Chadwick talks with Scott Peterson, who is reporting from Baghdad for the Christian Science Monitor.

More Than 60 Die in Suicide Attacks in Iraq

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

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

Coming up, a soldier's story from the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

First, the lead: Iraq, where US forces are in the third day of an offensive along the country's western border with Syria and where an American spokesman in Baghdad today says insurgents are now averaging 70 attacks a day--bombings, ambushes and kidnappings every day in Iraq. That's roughly twice the rate of a couple of months ago. Joining us from Baghdad is Scott Peterson. He's a reporter with The Christian Science Monitor.

Scott, welcome. And more bombings to report today, a lot of them, a very large casualty rate.

Mr. SCOTT PETERSON (The Christian Science Monitor): Well, that's right. I mean, we're well over 70 dead so far today for all of Iraq, and there are a constant array of attacks that have been going on, I mean, to the point where Iraqis, you know, really can't keep count of them, can't keep track. That's how many people have died or been wounded. I mean, this is the exact kind of surge in insurgent attacks that we were expecting to see during the elections at the end of January. It didn't happen then, but of course it's taken so long to form a new government, that's given the insurgents an awful lot of time to build up the resources and prepare for precisely these kind of attacks.

CHADWICK: It is this new government, first off, which must respond to these in some way. What is the government saying? What is it trying to do?

Mr. PETERSON: Well, I mean, they are saying that this is going to be their top priority, and certainly everyone in Iraq understands that nothing will move forward unless this insurgency is dealt with. I mean, this is the kind of thing that keeps people in their homes in many respects or at least puts fear in their hearts when they do go out on the street. It's the kind of thing that keeps the government completely locked down. I mean, often ministers are simply too afraid to even go to their ministries. It really makes governing this place virtually impossible. And keep in mind that even if there were total freedom of movement and people were not facing these kind of security threats, it would be very, very difficult to rule Iraq and pull out of the last several decades of wars and sanctions and every other problem that Iraq has had. Under these circumstances it's virtually impossible.

CHADWICK: Scott, aren't the insurgent groups, the attackers, primarily Sunni and the victims primarily Shia, these two branches of Islam there in Iraq, and isn't that, sooner or later, going to present a real problem with the Shia striking back?

Mr. PETERSON: Well, some of these attacks definitely do appear designed to provoke some kind of a Shiite sense of revenge. And credit to the Shia, in large measure, in terms of what we've been able to see, at least, they've been able to keep any kind of popular role for revenge in check. But that said, it's not so clear that this is entirely Sunni in the sense that--and it's not clear that all of these attacks are run by the Iraqis themselves.

I mean, you know, even to this day, after all of these suicide bombings that have gone on, there are still plenty of people, and Iraqis among them, who argue that Iraq just doesn't produce very many suicide bombers on its own; that those who are actually killing themselves and martyring themselves, if you will, while they're conducting these operations are primarily volunteers, foreign fighters who are coming in from Syria, primarily, and also to a degree from some other countries. And they're kind of forming a brief alliance with the Sunnis, who, while they both have different end games in store, at the moment they are kind of united in their wish to make Iraq ungovernable and also fight the American occupation.

CHADWICK: Well, there is this operation in the western part of Iraq that's now in its third day aimed directly at trying to stop these foreign fighters from getting in from Syria, where many suspect them of originating. How's that going?

Mr. PETERSON: Well, I think it's going quite well actually. I mean, it seems that the key moments took place over the weekend on Sunday and then also earlier on Monday. And it seems at the moment--I mean, the reports that are coming from that area, from US military and other sources, are saying that pretty much it's been a lot less visceral, the fighting now. It's been much more sporadic. And so perhaps they've broken the back of it. In any event, they were certainly surprised by the level of preparedness and the level of determination on the part of the fighters that they were facing there. And I think it sounds a lot like the kind of fighters that we saw the Marines take on in Fallujah last November.

CHADWICK: Scott Peterson for The Christian Science Monitor from Baghdad.

Thank you, Scott.

Mr. PETERSON: Thank you.

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