President Bush is defending the new joint security operation aimed at reducing sectarian violence in Iraq by putting more troops on Baghdad's streets. Meanwhile, several bomb attacks in the Iraqi capital have killed at least 20 people. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Irbil, Iraq.
Bombers targeted Sunni and Shi'ite areas of Baghdad, detonating explosives at a children's hospital, a gas station, and a garage.
A man at the al-Kindi Teaching Hospital held up a bloodied shirt and vented his frustration. "We the people can solve this problem," he said.
The bombings occurred the same day American and Iraqi forces opened a command center for their new joint security operation. The plan calls for 90,000 U.S. and Iraqi forces to patrol Baghdad's neighborhoods, where violence has surged since the plan was first announced by President Bush. Some Iraqi critics of the plan say the slow implementation of the strategy has left neighborhoods more vulnerable to attacks like Sunday's bloody bombing that devastated a Shiite market in Baghdad.
Speaking in Washington, President Bush responded to Iraqi criticism that the operation is not starting soon enough.
"I appreciate the fact that the Iraqi government is anxious to get security inside the capital of the country," he said. "That is a good sign. It is a good sign that there is a sense of concern and anxiety. It means that the government understands they have a responsibility to protect their people."
U.S. and Iraqi officials have recently been cracking down on radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, and they announced that Iraqi forces killed a Mahdi Army commander on Sunday. He was blamed for organizing kidnappings and attacks on coalition forces.
Groups such as the Shi'ite Mahdi Army have been blamed for much of Iraq's worsening sectarian violence, but the militias have also been credited with preventing attacks on neighborhoods of their supporters.