The U.S. military expects al
Qaeda in Iraq to strike back with "spectacular attacks" after major U.S.-led
offensives that have disrupted its activities, a military spokesman said on
Brigadier-General Kevin Bergner said 26 leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq had
been killed or captured in operations in May and June across the country.
A U.S. soldier from the 2nd
battalion, 32nd Field Artillery brigade patrols the street in Yarmuk
neighborhood in Baghdad on July 11, 2007. [Reuters]
"Over the past two months our collective efforts against the al Qaeda
leadership have begun to disrupt their networks and safe havens," Bergner told a
"We fully expect al Qaeda in Iraq operatives to lash out and stage
spectacular attacks to reassert themselves."
In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said a German
woman who was kidnapped by militants in Iraq in February had been freed but her
son remained in captivity.
Bergner's comments followed a weekend of bloodshed in Iraq in which nearly
250 people were killed, including 150 in a truck bombing in the northern town of
Tuz Khurmato. Iraqi officials have blamed the Sunni Islamist militant group for
Some U.S. military officials have said they expect militants to strike hard
in the next two months before a much-anticipated report on Iraq goes to the U.S.
Congress in mid-September.
That report is being prepared by U.S. military commander General David
Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and will assess Iraq's security and
It is being seen as a watershed given the mounting pressure on U.S. President
George W. Bush from Democrats and increasingly from senior members in his own
Republican Party for a shift in course in Iraq.
A new USA Today/Gallup poll showed more than seven in 10 Americans favor
withdrawing nearly all U.S troops by April.
U.S. officials blame al Qaeda for most of the major car bombings in Iraq,
saying the group is trying to spark all-out civil war between majority Shi'tes
and minority Sunni Arabs.
Bergner was pressed to explain the link between al Qaeda in Iraq and the
global network led by Osama bin Laden, given the U.S. military's increasing
focus al Qaeda in Iraq as the biggest threat to the country.
"Al Qaeda senior leadership does provide direction to al Qaeda in Iraq. They
do establish focus, they do establish and provide resources and support the
network," Bergner said.
"Their numbers are relatively small (in Iraq), but their effect is very, very
devastating to the Iraqi people because they are employed frequently as these
CONCERN OVER GREEN ZONE
Bergner also expressed "serious concern" at mortar and rocket attacks on the
heavily fortified Green Zone compound that houses the Iraqi government and the
A barrage on Tuesday killed three people including a U.S. military service
member, the U.S. embassy said.
Iraqi militants had threatened to kill the German woman and her son, seized
from their home in western Baghdad on February 6, unless Germany withdrew its
troops from Afghanistan.
"After 155 days, Hannelore Krause's captivity is over. She has been free
since yesterday afternoon," Foreign Minister Steinmeier told reporters in
Berlin, declining to talk about the circumstances of her release.
In April, the Arrows of Righteousness group posted a video on the Internet
showing Krause urging Germans to press their government to heed the demands of
Krause is married to an Iraqi physician and moved to Iraq 40 years ago. Her
son, Sinan, is reported to be in his mid-20s and has dual German-Iraqi
Tens of thousands of U.S. troops are engaged in a series of offensives in
Iraq that aim to deny al Qaeda the opportunity to launch big car bomb attacks,
especially in Baghdad.
Bush has sent 28,000 additional troops to Iraq, bringing total military
personnel to 157,000.
On Tuesday the president brushed aside the criticism of fellow Republicans
over Iraq and demanded the U.S. Congress allow his troop buildup more time to