Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wire: Iraq Girds for Tuesday's US Troop Withdrawal

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2009 -- Newswire services this evening reported that despite a wave of deadly bombings this week, Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Saturday that the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraqi cities shows Iraq can handle its own security.

On Saturday, few if any of the 133,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq were visible in its cities, with most already having pulled out of urban centers in recent weeks. They have assembled in large bases outside urban centers and will continue to conduct combat operations in rural areas and near the border, USA Today reported.

The U.S. pullback from Iraq's urban centers scheduled to be finished Tuesday.

But a string of bombings in the capital and in northern Iraq this week, including two of the deadliest attacks in over a year, have shaken Iraqis.

On Sunday a truck bomb packed with nearly a ton of explosives exploded in a Shiite town just outside the ethnically tense city of Kirkuk, killing 82 people. Officials blamed al-Qaida in Iraq for the attack.

On Monday, the increased violence killed more than 30 people in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods.

On Wednesday, a massive blast in Sadr City left 78 people dead and over 200 wounded.

The Kirkuk bombing and the Sadr City blast were the two deadliest attacks this year.

On Thursday, a bombing at a bus station in a Shiite neighborhood in southwest Baghdad killed at least seven people and wounded 31, police said. Another three bombs and a mortar strike killed two others around the capital. Nine American soldiers were wounded in two roadside bombings against a convoy in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said. And a roadside bombing killed a man in the northern city of Mosul, AP said.

On Friday, a bomb killed at least 13 people at a market in Baghdad.

That left the death toll since last Saturday at over 250 people, according to a USA Today report.

The Reuters news service said U.S. and Iraqi officials have warned they expect the number of attacks to rise as the U.S. troops pull back, and also in the run-up to parliamentary elections next January.

As of Saturday, June 27, 2009, at least 4,318 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The figure includes nine military civilians killed in action. At least 3,455 military personnel died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is one fewer than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Friday at 10 a.m. EDT.

The British military has reported 179 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia and Georgia, three each; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand and Romania, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan and South Korea, one death each.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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