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Twin Suicide Bombings Kill 5 in Iraq

Five Iraqis were killed in a double suicide car bombing outside an Iraqi military base in northern Iraq. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government confirmed the death of a Japanese security contractor taken hostage in an ambush earlier this month. Amid the ongoing violence, the new government is preparing to mount a 40,000-strong counterinsurgency offensive next week.

Iraqi officials said five members of the country's security forces were killed when suicide bombers detonated two car bombs outside a military base in northern Iraq. Another 45 people were wounded in the attack according to hospital officials.

Iraqi insurgents and Islamic extremists have targeted the country's untested military and police hoping to scare off those Iraqis who are willing to cooperate with the new government and coalition forces. In May alone, insurgent attacks claimed the lives of more than 620 people.

Despite the heavy casualties the Iraqi people have suffered, President Bush says many remain committed to democracy and freedom.

"The people of Iraq and Afghanistan are determined to secure their freedom, and we will help them," said president Bush. "We're training Iraqi and Afghan forces so they can take the fight to the enemy and defend their own countries, and then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned."

Meanwhile, a car bomb attack on an Iraqi police convoy in Tikrit late Friday killed at least two civilians and wounded 24 other people, including several police officers.

Akihiko Saito in a 1988 French Foreign Legion photograph
In a separate development, the brother of a Japanese security guard kidnapped three weeks ago confirmed the man's death after viewing pictures of the bloody corpse of an Asian man posted on a militant group's website. The guard, Akihiko Saito, was a former Japanese soldier who worked for a British security company in Iraq.

His brother, Hironobu Saito, held a news conference in Tokyo, Saturday.

Mr. Saito told those gathered at a news conference in Tokyo that he had received a phone call from the Japanese Foreign Ministry saying they were fairly certain the man in the images was his brother.

Mr. Saito is one of the nearly 200 foreigners who have been kidnapped in Iraq, and one of 30 who have been killed by their captors. In addition, thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped and held for ransom or killed.

In an attempt to rein in this lawlessness and criminality, the new Shi'ite-led government announced last week that it would be launching a massive security operation in Baghdad.

The Ministers of Defense and Interior said 40,000 Iraqi security forces would be mobilized to seal off the capital next week in an aggressive operation to root out insurgents and halt the wave of car bombs that has plagued the country during the past month.

It was unclear if U.S. forces would participate in the massive security sweep, although four separate joint Iraqi-U.S. counterinsurgency operations are already under way across Iraq.

At a recent Pentagon news briefing, Army Brigadier General Carter Ham said he couldn't comment on whether U.S. forces would be involved in the new offensive, but praised the Iraqi government for launching it.

"I think this is great news," said General Ham. "And the Iraqi minister of Defense, minister of Interior talking about an operation like this certainly conveys the recognition by the transitional government the importance of counterinsurgency operations. And while it's not appropriate for us to talk about future operations, I think this does convey the growing confidence and capability of the Iraqi security forces. And I think that, in and of itself, is a positive indicator."

Once the operation begins, Iraqi security forces will set up 675 checkpoints, supplemented by additional roving checkpoints, to control the flow of traffic in and around Baghdad.