By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
March 8, 2007 – Sensational attacks like the March 6 suicide bombing that killed more than 100 religious pilgrims in Karbala, Iraq, illustrate insurgents' lack of respect for human life, the top U.S. military officer in Iraq told reporters today. Those "Shiite pilgrims were killed in a barbaric manner by thugs with no soul," Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said today in Baghdad during his first news conference as the chief of Multinational Force Iraq. Petraeus took command of MNFI on Feb. 10.
However, new security initiatives instituted as part of Operation Law and Order should assist in reducing the violence over time, Petraeus said. American troops and Iraqi soldiers and police are bolstering security at major marketplaces and checkpoints, he said. New security outposts are being set up in Baghdad's neighborhoods, where joint U.S.-Iraqi forces are establishing an around-the-clock patrol presence to protect residents.
The Karbala incident is but one among a series of recent insurgent-staged attacks in Baghdad and other areas of Iraq, Petraeus noted.
"Schools, health clinics and marketplaces have all been attacked," Petraeus said. "Car bombs have targeted hundreds of innocent Iraqis, including dozens of Sunni Arabs leaving a mosque in al Anbar province."
Suicide bombers killed more than three-dozen people, mostly students, during a Feb. 25 attack at a Baghdad college, Petraeus recalled. And, a car-bomb explosion in Baghdad's booksellers' district on March 5 killed 26 people.
Fourteen Iraqi police officers were killed execution-style in early March, and Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi was wounded during a Feb. 26 assassination attempt.
"Thankfully, and impressively, he remains undaunted and is already back on the job," Petraeus said.
Some sensational attacks "inevitably, will continue to take place," Petraeus acknowledged, "though every effort will be made to reduce their number by identifying and destroying the networks and facilities of the bombers and by interdicting those who would visit such violence on the Iraqi people."
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