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US Soldiers Commemorate Sept. 11 Anniversary in Iraq - 2003-09-11

In Iraq, civilians and military members of the U.S.-led coalition commemorated Thursday, the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Memorial services were held in various parts of the country.

To the sound of bagpipes played by a British soldier, about 100 solemn officials, led by coalition authority head Paul Bremer and coalition forces commander General Ricardo Sanchez, paid their respects to the victims of the September 11 attacks.

The ceremony took place at the coalition's main headquarters in Baghdad, in the bombed out palace of deposed president Saddam Hussein. Coalition members also held prayer breakfasts and memorial services in other parts of Iraq. And several dozen U.S. enlisted soldiers became non-commissioned officers at a ceremony in a presidential palace in the northern city, Tikrit, the birthplace of the former president.

Speakers urged those in attendance to remember the victims of the attacks in New York and Washington and redouble their efforts to combat terrorism around the world.

General Sanchez, speaking later in the day to reporters, underscored that the war in Iraq is part of this global effort.

"This is a natural follow-up battle in that global war on terrorism," he said.

Among Iraqi citizens, however, the anniversary went largely unmarked. Some Iraqis said they felt indifference. Some refused to comment. Still others expressed anger, saying the September 11 attacks caused the war on Iraq and the occupation of their country.

Engineer Wamid Tariq told VOA he sympathizes with the victims.

"They were innocents and I feel sad about them and their family(ies) because 500 of them were Muslims," he said. "Also, even if they were not a Muslim, they didn't deserve this because they are innocent people."

Ahmed Jalil Ridha agrees, saying the suicide plane attacks were despicable because they killed so many innocent people without any reason. But he says the war on terrorism that followed the attacks is responsible for bringing terrorism to Iraq.

Mr. Ridha says, under Saddam Hussein, there was some terrorism but it was small. He agrees that Saddam Hussein abused and oppressed his people. But, he says since the fall of Saddam Hussein, terrorism has increased. Echoing remarks by coalition officials, he says Iraq has become the battlefield of terrorism.

There have been five car bomb attacks in Iraq in the past month, including the attacks against the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and Shi'ite Islam's holiest shrine in Najaf that have killed more than 100 people. The most recent attack occurred Tuesday night in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil.