Coordinated attacks in Baghdad on Tuesday killed more than 125 people and wounded hundreds, but the U.S. ambassador to Iraq says that despite the setback, security is improving.
"I certainly don't want to suggest this is anything but the setback that it is, but, on the other hand, November has been the quietest month since back in 2003, and, I think, by most metrics — and certainly by the sense of the public — the violence levels are way down," the envoy, Christopher Hill, told NPR's Robert Siegel. "That said, an incident like this is pretty horrific."
Tuesday's five attacks included three car bombs that hit government buildings in central Baghdad within 40 minutes of each other. The targets: a Labor Ministry compound, a court complex and the new Finance Ministry site. No one has claimed responsibility, but an Iraqi spokesman blamed members of Saddam Hussein's banned Baath Party and al-Qaida in Iraq. Hill noted that investigations were ongoing but acknowledged the operation was typical of al-Qaida.
The attacks come as U.S. forces plan their withdrawal from Iraq, leaving security in the hands of the Iraqis. Following the blasts, a Kurdish lawmaker demanded an inquiry, saying Parliament was "angry" at the security services. Hill said though security was improving, "it's very difficult to deal with people who will drive a car and blow themselves up in the car."
Hill said that after seven difficult years, there has been much progress in Iraq despite frequent attacks, and he credited Iraqis with making progress despite the security.
"I think it's important that no one ever accepts this [frequent attacks]," Hill said. "But with that point made, it's also important to understand that these people are sort of prepared to move along and get things done. They do not become paralyzed by this type of bombing attack."