At least 146 Shiite pilgrims were killed in a series of attacks across central Iraq on Tuesday, a wave of violence on the eve of one of Shiite Islam's most sacred holidays that appeared intended to widen Iraq's sectarian divide.
Attacks continued Wednesday when at least 11 more people were killed by bombs and gunfire as they trekked toward a Muslim shrine for this weekend's holiday, the Associated Press reported.
A Sunni insurgent group asserted responsibility for the carnage, which occurred three weeks into a U.S. and Iraqi effort to bring security to Baghdad and other parts of the country.
The above, noted by Martha, is from Ernesto Londono and Sudarsan Raghavan's "146 Shiite Pilgrims Killed in Iraq Attacks" (Washington Post) which also covers a 'prison release' in Mosul -- a prison was attacked and 140 prisoners were 'released.' With yesterday's death toll, it's worth revisiting this from yesterday's snapshot:
Bully Boy addressed the American legion today and, looking drunk or as though his face got run over, CBS and AP report that he said he sees "encouraging signs" in the so-called crackdown. Well, as noted, he did look possibly drunk.
Encouraging signs? Reuters is already reporting at least 8 pilgrims killed today with over 30 wounded. Also on yesterday's events, we'll note Richard A. Oppel Jr.'s "Attacks Across Iraq Kill at Least 109 Shiite Pilgrims" (New York Times):
The American military also announced an unusually high death toll for American soldiers: nine killed on Monday, including six soldiers riding in two vehicles who died from the same huge bomb blast north of Baghdad.
The attacks demonstrated that Sunni militants could still inflict grave damage inside or outside the capital even as the American-backed Baghdad security plan entered its fourth week. The attacks immediately drew Shiite calls for reprisals.
In Hilla, a southern city on the road that Shiite pilgrims from the south travel on the way to the holy city of Karbala, the first suicide bomber drew people in by handing them food, an age-old custom during the annual Arbaeen religious festival, which ends 40 days of mourning the death of the revered Shiite martyr Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
Meanwhile, the escalation pushed by the Bully Boy was the usual nonsense. Richard Cowan (Reuters) notes:
The number of U.S. troops needed to carry out President George W. Bush's Iraq security plan could approach 30,000, significantly more than he projected in January, a senior Pentagon official said on Tuesday.
In testimony to the House of Representatives Budget Committee, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England said U.S. military commanders in Iraq were requesting varying numbers of support troops to augment the additional 21,500 soldiers Bush has ordered into combat.
"At this point, our expectation is the number of ... troops could go above 21,500 by about 4,000, maybe as many as 7,000," England said.
There are nearly 140,000 U.S. troops already fighting in Iraq, where sectarian violence has thwarted American efforts to bring the 4-year-old war to a close.
By 4,000 more or maybe 7,000. Or maybe 10,000? The White House is not going to end this illegal war. Bully Boy's made that very clear. And after six years of various 'plans' (domestic and international) with announced figures that are always being upped later, the above is no surprise.
Correction, ANDREW Cockburn is scheduled to be a guest on today's Democracy Now!.
Andrew, not Alexander. He will be on RadioNation with Laura Flanders Saturday. (Flanders is his niece, Alexander Cockburn is his brother.) Click here for his appearance on DN!
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