Saturday, June 20, 2009

Wire: Iraq Declares "Great Victory" as US Troops Withdraw

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said the start of the U.S. withdrawal was a "great victory" for Iraq over foreign occupation.
WASHINGTON, June 20, 2009 -- Newswire services this afternoon reported that police said a suicide truck bomb killed at least 55 and wounded nearly 200 people leaving a mosque on Saturday, hours after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki urged Iraqis not to lose faith if a U.S. military pullback resulted in more insurgent attacks.

Almost all U.S. soldiers will leave urban centers by June 30 under a security pact signed by Baghdad and Washington last year, and the whole force that invaded the country in 2003 must be gone by 2012, the Reuters news service reported.

Reuters noted the following details:
Don't lose heart if a breach of security occurs here or there," Maliki told leaders from the ethnic Turkmen community, reiterating a warning that insurgents were likely to try to take advantage of the U.S. pullback to launch more attacks.

Analysts warn there may also be a spike in violence by mainly Sunni Islamist insurgents, including al Qaeda, and other violent groups ahead of a parliamentary election next January.

Hours after Maliki spoke, a suicide bomber detonated a truck filled with explosives as worshippers left a Shi'ite Muslim mosque near the northern city of Kirkuk, a city contested by Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds and which sits over vast oil reserves.

Thirty-four people were killed, including women and children and about 150 civilians were wounded as dozens of clay homes in the area were flattened. Many people were feared trapped under the rubble, and the death toll was expected to rise.
The attacks, including a string of devastating bomb blasts in April, have cast doubt on the ability of Iraqi security forces to take over after U.S. troops leave, Reuters said.

Iraq Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Karim Khalaf said al-Qaeda was resorting to paying people to fight. It had also turned to criminal activities to raise funds.

Baghdad has continued to see a steady stream of bombings and shootings and Kirkuk is viewed as a potential flashpoint.

Maliki, a Shi'ite, said the start of the U.S. withdrawal was a "great victory" for Iraq over foreign occupation.

"I, and you, are sure that many don't want us to succeed and celebrate this victory," he said. "They are getting themselves ready to move in the dark to destabilize the situation, but we will be ready for them, God willing."

(Report from newswire sources.)

Suicide truck bomb kills 34 in northern Iraq
Truck bomb kills at least 55 in northern Iraq

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