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US Blames al-Qaida for Iraq Bombings That Killed at Least 250

The U.S. military command in Iraq is blaming al-Qaida for spectacular bombings on Tuesday that killed at least 250 people. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

Brigadier General Kevin Bergner opened his briefing in Baghdad Wednesday with this simple statement.

"Yesterday was a tough day," he said.

The general was referring to the nearly simultaneous suicide bombings in northern Iraq, which he said bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida terrorists.

"This attack, the spectacular nature of it, the complete disregard for human life, the car bombs that were used, all have a consistent profile with al-Qaida in Iraq violence," he added.

General Bergner said such attacks are designed "to undermine the sense of progress" that U.S. and Iraqi forces are creating as a result of the new strategy and troop surge. He says the U.S. command expected insurgents to try to do that in the run-up to a key progress report due to be presented to the U.S. congress by September 15.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said in spite of improvements in security, terrorists can strike if they are willing to die doing so.

"These are [cowardly] acts against what we call 'soft targets,' innocent civilians. And I think you have to take a look at where this attack took place, too," he said.

The new security effort is focused on Baghdad and other population centers. Tuesday's attacks were in a rural area.

In Texas, where President Bush is on vacation, spokeswoman Dana Perino said the attackers will not succeed in their apparent strategic objective.

"This is an enemy that has no heart," she said. "They have no conscience. And what they are trying to do is break our will, and the will of the Iraqi people, but it has the opposite effect."

The new Iraq security plan, which fully went into effect two months ago, is designed in part to prevent such large-scale attacks. But the spokesman in Baghdad, Brigadier General Bergner, says, at least for now, progress and violence will continue to coexist in Iraq.

"While our commanders have achieved some tactical momentum on the ground, this remains a very hard fight," he noted. "And we expect it will continue to be so, just as events of the past few days have shown."

General Bergner said the best way to consolidate security gains is to continue training the Iraqi security forces.

The general also presented photos of missiles he said demonstrated continuing Iranian support for insurgents in Iraq. And he said a roadside bomb that killed two local officials in southern Iraq over the weekend was an "explosively formed penetrator," the type of particularly lethal bomb U.S. officials say Iranian agents are providing to Iraqi insurgents.