A senior U.S. military officer says insurgents in Iraq used two children to help them pass a coalition checkpoint in Baghdad in recent days, and then detonated a car bomb, killing the children. The officer reported the incident during a news conference at the Pentagon, and VOA's Al Pessin reports.
Major General Michael Barbero says this is the first time he has heard of insurgents using what he called this brutal and ruthless technique.
"We saw a vehicle with two children in the back seat come up to one of our checkpoints, get stopped by our folks, the children in the back seat lowered suspicion, we let it move through," he said. "They parked the vehicle, the adults ran out and detonated with the children in the back."
The general said the incident happened in Baghdad during the weekend, but he could not provide any further details. Later, other U.S. officials said the attack was on Sunday at a market in Baghdad's Amadiya neighborhood, and that five people were killed and seven were injured.
General Barbero also reported Iraqi insurgents have used six chlorine bombs since late January, mainly in western al-Anbar Province. Three of the chlorine bombings were used this past weekend, and General Barbero said he expects more because the chemical is readily available in Iraq. The general called the chlorine bombs "relatively ineffective," although one of the bombs made hundreds of people sick.
General Barbero, who is the deputy operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said the increase of U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad is on schedule and is beginning to have some impact. He said security posts are being established and ordinary Iraqis are being more cooperative to U.S. and Iraqi forces. He noted particularly the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, a stronghold of militant Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
"There has been a pretty dramatic change in Sadr City over the last few weeks," he added. "We are able to operate freely in there. We have joint security stations established, a medical clinic, and we're operating freely in there, where before we were not."
General Barbero said the U.S. military believes Moqtada al-Sadr is still in Iran, where he has been on an extended visit. And the general indicated that some sort of negotiations are under way with officials in his movement to try to end their insurgency.
"I think where we are with the leaders of his movement is at a pretty delicate point and I probably don't want to talk any more about his followers, where we are in our relationship with them," he explained. "That's probably best left unsaid."
General Barbero said anyone is welcome to participate in Iraq's political process if they contribute to stability and security, including Moqtada al-Sadr. In the past, the U.S. military accused al-Sadr of responsibility for the deaths of U.S. troops, and wanted him arrested.