US general says ‘spectacular’ Qaeda attacks rise in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) – A US commander on Wednesday said the number of “spectacular” assaults by Al-Qaeda in Iraq has increased although the overall number of attacks was down and 20 key militants have been killed or caught.ADVERTISEMENT

Major General Mark Hertling, commanding general of coalition forces in northern Iraq, gave no specific examples of what he termed “spectacular” attacks, referring only to big car bombs and to suicide attacks.

“These spectacular events and intimidation are designed to incite fear in the population,” Hertling told a news conference in Baghdad.

Suicide bombers have continued to carry out bloody attacks in recent weeks, with one killing 25 people and wounding 85 on Christmas Day, when he slammed his vehicle into a truck carrying gas cylinders at a checkpoint in the northern oil town of Baiji.

The same month, a woman suicide bomber killed 16 people in the offices of a local anti-Qaeda front in Muqdadiyah, in Diyala province, while another bomber killed 13 people inside a cafe near the Diyala provincial capital Baquba.

None of the recent attacks, however, has brought the sort of death tolls seen in 2006 and earlier in 2007 when the numbers killed could exceed 100, and the general’s definition of spectacular was unclear.

Several members or leaders of “Awakening” groups — local men paid by the US to fight Al-Qaeda — have also been killed recently.

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