Today the US military announced: "TIKRIT, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division – North Soldier died from injuries sustained following an attack on a patrol in the Kirkuk Province of northern Iraq, April 25. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense." The announcement brings to 4278 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. This is the fourth death of a US service member announced this week and the 15th for the month thus far -- already putting April's death toll ahead of March's.
In other violence, Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the following bombings: 2 roadside bombings outside of Kirkuk which left five police officers injured and, dropping back to Friday, a Diyala Province roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives, a Nineveh roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi solider and left and woman wounded, 2 Kirkuk roadside bombings which left five police officers injured, and a Nineveh Province roadside bombing targeting Sheikh Medlool al Mutlag's son who was killed in the bombing. Shootings? Reuters notes 7 pilgrims were wounded in a Balad shooting, 2 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead in Mosul, 1 police officer (off duty) was shot dead in Mosul and a second one was shot dead in a Mosul home invasion.
Friday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Kuwait. The same day US Ambassador Chris Hill arrived in Baghdad (though no one wants to talk about that). Today the Secretary went to Baghdad for a brief visit.
The US State Dept issued a statement when Clinton arrived in Baghdad noting she would leave through Kuwait but would "meet with Prime Minister al-Maliki, President Talibani, Deputy President al-Hashimi, Foreign Minister Zebari, and other senior leaders in the Government of Iraq. They will discuss issues of common concern including security, stability operations and assistance. Secretary Clinton will also meet with Ambassador Christopher Hill and Multinational Force-Iraq Commander Odierno to discuss the Administration's new direction and change of mission for U.S. forces in Iraq and hold a roundtable with Iraqi women." In addition she was scheduled to "participate in a townhalll with Iraqi citizens who work day in and day out with Provincial Reconstruction Teams, to hear from and discuss with them what they are achieving as well as issues facing the Iraqi people."
The townhall has taken place, we'll note this question and response:
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) First of all, I would like to welcome you, Madame Secretary, here. I work as an editor-in-chief of an Iraqi newspaper. The United States made a decision to topple down the previous regime in Iraq and now, there is a new way of democracy in Iraq. We strongly believe that true freedom and true democracy will not exist unless Iraqi women will enjoy true freedom and true democracy.
My question to you, Madame Secretary, is this: What is it that you are going to provide Iraqi women in order to empower them, in order to advance them? Especially that you represent the Democratic Party in the United States that seized power. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. I believe strongly that supporting and empowering women is good for families, it’s good for communities, and it’s good for countries. I know here in Iraq that women have voted in very large numbers in the elections, and that women have committed to supporting this new democracy through their votes and their actions. And so I believe that Iraq will be much stronger if women are educated and empowered to participate on behalf of themselves and their families, particularly their children, as Iraq makes a new future.
Before coming to this town hall, I met with a group of war widows who are struggling to support themselves and their children. And they asked me to talk with the Iraqi Government about helping women, particularly widows, have more opportunities, more jobs, and more support so that they can take better care of themselves.
So I will strongly urge not only the Iraqi Government, but the Iraqi people to be sure that women are given the rights and support they need not only to make better lives for themselves, but to help their country. When I met with the women and looked around the room, I could not tell what group they came from or what their background was. They were all united in the loss of a husband and the difficulties they faced for their children. And I think it’s important for the United States to be a strong partner with Iraqi women, and I intend to do that.
There was not time for all the questions to be asked and Hillary promised that she would do another townhall on her next visit to Iraq (she also invited those participating in the townhall to a later press conference she'd be doing). On the supposed draw down, she declared, "Now, we will be working closely with the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi security forces as we withdraw our combat troops. But we need to be sure that all of you are supporting a strong nonsectarian security force. And we will work to try to help make that happen, but I think that the ultimate answer is what the people of Iraq demand. And what I have seen over the last several years is a very strong desire on the part of most Iraqis to have a united, secure, stable, peaceful Iraq. That is our goal. We’re not going to tell you how to resolve internal political issues. You have to decide that. But we will continue to work very, very hard to give you the tools to make sure that you have a secure country." Photo below (and above) by Eric W. Brooks of the US State Dept. In the photo below, Hillary is meeting with the top US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno.
The press conference she invited them to was with Hoshyar Zebari, the country's Foreign Minister. Liz Sly and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) quote her stating at that conference of the bombings on Thursday and Friday which have resulted in approximately 150 deaths, "These are tragic, terrible events, but they don't reflect any diversion from the security progress that has been made." Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) notes of the flight into Baghdad, "Once on board, staff and reporters grabbed sweaty body armor from a mound in the back of the aircraft, and practiced strapping on helmets. " Corinne Reilly's "Clinton pays surprise visit to Baghdad" (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:
Clinton flew to Iraq from Kuwait on Saturday morning aboard a C-17 military cargo jet. She was scheduled to return to Kuwait the same day.
Her visit included meetings with Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander here, and several Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and Vice President Tariq al Hashimi, the State Department said.
Accompanying Clinton for much of the day was Christopher Hill, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq who arrived here Friday.
Clinton said that she and Odierno discussed the recent spate of attacks and that he agrees they should not change U.S. strategy in Iraq.
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