As Iraq moves closer to national elections next month, insurgents continue their efforts to intimidate Iraqis into staying away from the polls. Car bombs and mortars were used in attacks Thursday against civilians and military personnel in Baghdad and in the north.
While the political landscape in Iraq is beginning to take form, insurgents in the country continue to do all they can to disrupt the political process.
Insurgents in Baghdad fired multiple mortar rounds toward an Iraqi National Guard base and the Italian embassy located close by. Three civilians were killed in the attack and five people were wounded.
In the northern city of Mosul, insurgents attacked a busy fruit and vegetable market with a car bomb. U.S. military officials in the area say two Iraqis were wounded in the attack. The bombing occurred one day after a gun battle between insurgents and police in Mosul, that left four insurgents dead.
Attacks several parts of Iraq have risen following the U.S.-led invasion of the once rebellious city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad. Interim government officials have said they believe thousands of insurgents fled the city prior to the invasion, and have since fanned out across the country.
According to the senior adviser to the Interior Ministry, Sabah Kadhim, terrorists are being captured throughout the country and are providing important information.
"Daily, now we are capturing terrorists in different parts of the country, whether its far north in Mosul or Basra and, of course, Baghdad," said Sabah Kadhim. "And, this helps us to build the intelligence information, which is a must for this business. And, that is happening every day where terrorists captured are talking about their organization and their location. And, this we lacked terribly at the beginning of the administration."
In the meantime, Muslim Shiite political leaders supporting Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most senior Shiite cleric in Iraq, announced efforts to form a coalition of political parties and independents to run in elections scheduled for next month.
Senior interim government officials said such a coalition would be a powerful political force in Iraq, where 60 percent of the people are Shiite Muslims.
The coalition would become known as the United Iraqi Alliance. That coalition is expected to put forth the names of about 165 candidates to run next month, as Iraqis elect a 275-seat interim national assembly.
The assembly will be charged with writing a new constitution that Iraqis will vote on by mid 2005. Then, later in the year, a permanent government is to be elected.