In the southern city of
In the northern city of
An additional 14 people died and scores were injured in more than a dozen other bombings and shootings over the weekend. Most of the incidents were minor; nonetheless, they indicated an increased frequency of attacks that has raised fears the insurgency is gearing up for a comeback as U.S. troops withdraw.
A U.S. soldier was reported killed in the southern province of Babil, a relatively rare event as the Americans hand over security responsibility to Iraqi forces ahead of their drawdown to 50,000 troops and the formal end of the combat mission. The U.S. military did not say how the soldier died.
"I believe there will be people who attempt to take advantage of the opportunity of the attention being brought upon the
Many Iraqis attribute the recent violence to the political gridlock that has failed to produce a new government more than five months after national elections in March, contributing to tensions on the streets. No faction won a clear majority, leaving each seeking coalition partners.
The fortunes of Prime Minister
Though Barzani stopped short of throwing Kurdish
support behind Maliki, it was the first time a leading politician
outside Maliki's bloc had endorsed the prime minister's bid to hold on
to his job. Maliki returned the favor by pledging to support a cause
central to Kurdish concerns: the implementation of a constitutional
clause that Kurds hope will lead to the incorporation of the disputed
Collectively, Kurds won 57 of the 325 seats in parliament, putting them a distant fourth among political coalitions. But their votes could be crucial in determining the outcome of the finely balanced contest to lead the next government. Maliki's efforts have been blocked by Shiite Muslim opposition to his candidacy. The bloc headed by his chief rival, Allawi, won the most seats, 91 compared with 89 for Maliki's group, but Allawi has also failed to secure any support for his bid to be prime minister, leaving the process deadlocked.
Odierno said he was not unduly concerned that there probably would not be a government in place by the time the scheduled drawdown is complete, because the timetable is linked to the abilities of the Iraqi security forces.
"Our numbers are not linked to the formation of the government," he said. "Our numbers are linked to the capacity of the Iraqi security forces being able to sustain stability. And I think they are moving toward that capacity."———
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