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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Insurgents Mark 3rd Anniversary With Attacks

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Insurgents marked the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on Monday with roadside bombings that killed at least seven policemen, and authorities reported finding 10 more bullet-riddled bodies dumped in the capital, one of them that of a 13-year-old girl.

The violence took up where it left off Sunday, when at least 35 people died.

On Sunday, U.S. President George W. Bush and senior officials argued that their war strategy was working despite escalating violence in Iraq, a conflict that they once expected to be over by now.

One of the roadside bombings Monday, just a few hundred meters from an Interior Ministry lockup in central Baghdad, killed at least three Iraqi police commandos and a prisoner, police Lieutenant Colonel Falah al-Mohammedawi said. Four commandos were injured in the midday attack.

A second roadside bomb in a farming area in the so-called Triangle of Death south of Baghdad killed four policemen, police Captain Muthana Khalid Ali reported from the area.

The 10 dumped bodies, apparently executed, were the latest gruesome discoveries tied to the underground sectarian war being conducted by Shiite and Sunni Muslims as they settle scores in the chaos that grips the capital.

As many as 700 people have been killed in sectarian violence since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra and the subsequent series of car bombings and mortar attacks in the Sadr City slum on March 12.

Baghdadis voiced anger Monday when asked about their lives as the war entered its fourth year.

"Since [U.S.-led troops] came into Iraq, we've gotten nothing," said Ali Zeidan. "Three years have passed by for the Iraqi people, and they are still suffering psychologically ... and economically."

Five Shiite pilgrims headed to Karbala were the victims of a drive-by shooting in an attack by assailants with automatic rifles in the town of Iskandariyah, 50 kilometers south of Baghdad. All were injured, police said.

As millions of pilgrims gathered in Karbala on Monday to complete 40 days of symbolic mourning for Imam Hussein, the Prophet Mohammed's grandson, the Baghdad International Airport was ordered closed through Tuesday "to avoid any violence during the [religious] commemoration," said Transportation Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abdul-Wahab.

On the political front, Iraqi leaders still have not formed a government more than three months after landmark elections for the country's first permanent post-invasion parliament, but they did announce an agreement on establishing a Security Council to deal with key matters while negotiations proceed.

The announcement was made Sunday after the fourth in a series of U.S.-brokered all-party meetings on forming a new government.

Displaying a carefully calibrated mix of optimism about eventual victory and caution about how long American troops would be involved, U.S. officials who on Sunday marked Monday's anniversary -- including Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- sounded much as they did on the first anniversary of the invasion. At that time, the rebuilding effort had just begun, the insurgency was far less fierce, and the U.S. occupation had suppressed, temporarily, the sectarian violence scarring Iraq today.

The picture painted by the administration clashed with that of the former interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, once hailed by Bush as the kind of fair-minded leader Iraq needed. He declared in an interview with the BBC that the country was nearing a "point of no return."

"It is unfortunate that we are in civil war," said Allawi.

Allawi's assessment was contradicted by General George Casey Jr., the senior American commander in Iraq, who said on CNN's "Late Edition" that "we're a long way from civil war."

On CBS News' "Face the Nation," Cheney sought to place the war in a broader context. "It's not just about Iraq, it's not about just today's situation in Iraq," he said.

"It's about where we're going to be 10 years from now in the Middle East, and whether or not there's going to be hope and the development of the governments that are responsive to the will of the people, that are not a threat to anyone, that are not safe havens for terror or manufacturers of weapons of mass destruction," Cheney said.

The war has taken more than 2,300 American lives, as well as the lives of 33,000 to 37,000 Iraqis, according to the estimates of the Iraq Body Count Project, an independent group that monitors the news media.

(AP, NYT)