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Report: Iraq more dangerous than year ago

BAGHDAD -- Frequent bombings, assassinations and a resurgence in violence by Shiite militias have made Iraq more dangerous now than it was just a year ago, a U.S. government watchdog concludes in a report released yesterday.

The findings come during what U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen Jr. called "a summer of uncertainty" in Baghdad over whether American forces will stay past a year-end withdrawal deadline and continue military aid for the unstable nation.

"Iraq remains an extraordinarily dangerous place to work," Bowen concluded in his 172-page quarterly report to Congress and the Obama administration on progress -- and setbacks -- in Iraq. "It is less safe, in my judgment, than 12 months ago."

The report cited the deaths of 15 U.S. soldiers in June, the bloodiest month for the U.S. military in Iraq in two years. Nearly all of them were killed in attacks by Shiite militias bent on forcing out American troops on schedule.

It also noted an increase in rockets launched against Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, where government offices and foreign embassies are located, as well as constant assassination attempts against Iraqi political leaders, security forces and judges.

Additionally, the report called the northeastern province of Diyala, which borders Iran and is home to an often volatile mix of Sunni and Shiite Muslims and Kurds, "very unstable" with frequent bombings that bring double-digit death tolls.

A spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq declined to respond.

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