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Glimmers of Progress in Iraq Amidst the Bad News


The head of the US military says there are hopeful signs of progress in Iraq despite two major suicide bombings in Baghdad this week.

Despite two major suicide car bombings in Iraq this week, the U.S.-led coalition is reporting progress. The U.S. Defense Department says two high-ranking al-Qaida militants have been captured.

Spokesman Lawrence Di Rita says one of the men is a suspect in the kidnapping and murder of Egypt's ambassador to Iraq. "We believe this fellow Abdul Abu Aziz is the Al Qaida leader in Baghdad. How significant is that? They always have somebody behind them, so there’s no individual whose capture will stop the insurgency, but on the other hand, the more of these people we capture the more information we gain."

But the information has not stopped the attacks. US soldiers handing out candy and gifts in a Baghdad neighborhood were the apparent targets of a suicide car bomber this week.

25 people were killed -- most of them civilians and more than a dozen of them children.

General Richard Myers (file photo)
General Richard Myers, the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff called it a crime against civilization. " ‘Terrorists’ is way too kind a name for individuals like this. These are murderers. Obviously in many cases, psychopaths as well who strike without warning and without regard for human life in hopes they can intimidate innocent people, but it's backfiring on them; we won't be intimidated."

Even so, the Defense Department's plans to reduce coalition forces in half by 2006 remain on track. In recent months, two Iraqi brigades have taken over responsibility for two sectors in Iraq. General Myers says, this week, coalition forces transferred control of another sector to an Iraqi army battalion.

"So that's three instances now where security operations in the country of Iraq have been turned over to Iraqi armed forces: Kirkuk, Baghdad and a city just southeast of Baghdad."

One hundred seventy thousand Iraqis in 104 units have been trained and equipped to defend and secure parts of the country. General Myers says the training continues as the country prepares for a constitutional referendum in October.