Friday, May 1, 2009

A year ago this would have been front page news

Now you can barely find the story.
April deadliest month for US in Iraq in 7 months

The U.S. death toll for April rose to 18, the military said Friday, making it the deadliest in seven months for American forces in Iraq. The sharp increase from the previous month came as a series of bombings also pushed Iraqi deaths to their highest level this year.

In the latest violence, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a restaurant on the reservoir of Iraq's largest dam near the northern city of Mosul. At least five people were killed and 10 wounded, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

The spike in attacks has raised concerns that insurgents are stepping up their efforts to re-ignite sectarian bloodshed as well as questions about the readiness of the Iraqis to take over responsibility for their own security as U.S. troops begin to withdraw.

U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. David Perkins blamed the recent bombings on al-Qaida in Iraq, saying the terror network is making a push to regain influence, particularly in Baghdad.

"We have had some increase in the number of these high-profile attacks, but nowhere near what we were seeing a year or a year and half ago," he said Friday in a briefing for reporters.

The Iraqi and the U.S. militaries also have faced new hurdles as Iraqi officials grow more assertive about enforcing a security agreement that regulates the conduct of American troops in the field.

Iraq also has not yielded to American requests to allow access to a captured militant Iraqi authorities claim is the head of Iraq's main al-Qaida front group, Perkins said.

Authorities described Abu Omar al-Baghdadi's capture last week as a major setback for Sunni insurgents trying to intensify attacks after a relative lull. But the U.S. military has questioned his existence in the past.

"The detainee that the Iraqis are calling al-Baghdadi is in the custody of the Iraqi security forces, and we have not had any access to him," Perkins said. "We are in discussions with the Iraqis to determine how we can confirm or deny who he is."

In the past, the U.S. military has been the one to detain and announce high-profile detainees who are captured or killed, such as the 2006 death of the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Tensions also rose Friday in northern Iraq after American forces killed two men during a raid in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

The provincial governor's office and tribal leaders said the raid violated the security agreement regulating U.S. forces' conduct and demanded an apology.

The U.S. military, however, said it was an Iraqi-led joint operation and the two men killed were suspected of planting roadside bombs. The suspects were armed and resisted arrest, according to a statement, adding that U.S. troops shot the two men "for their own safety and the safety of their Iraqi partners."

There's more, and it's not pretty. Our hard earned gains in Iraq are showing signs of slipping away. Sometimes embracing the enemy hurts, Barack. Sometimes it kills.

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