On Monday, Reuters, citing U.S. and Iraqi officials, explained that attacks like yesterday's bombing in the southern oil port of Basra are likely to rise as the U.S. prepares to withdraw its last troops from the Iraq. That view certainly seems accurate today, amidst reports that two U.S. troops were killed in southern Iraq and at least twelve people were killed in the city of Baquba after gunmen and suicide bombers stormed an Iraqi provincial council building, taking hostages before Iraqi security forces regained control several hours later.
These attacks, of course, speak to the larger security situation in the country. U.S. troops have increasingly come under attack in southern Iraq, and the Los Angeles Times is calling the Baquba attack "the gravest sign yet of deteriorating security around central Iraq." U.S. soldiers depend on the Iraqi government to secure the bases where they're training and supporting Iraqi forces, the LA Times explains, but Shiite and Sunni militants are proving increasingly adept at carrying out attacks in an effort to drive the U.S. out of Iraq--a vulnerability on display last week when five U.S. soldiers died in a rocket attack in Baghdad. Today's attack in Baquba also shows "how a small group of militants could still sow chaos in a heavily protected government compound, despite layers of checkpoints, blast walls and police performing pat-downs and inspecting cars for explosives," The New York Times adds.
What does the recent series of assaults on local police and government headquarters mean for Iraqis? The AP reports today that in Iraq, where nearly every household has at least one weapon, jittery residents hoping to protect their families, as well as and militants eyeing an uncertain future, are stockpiling AK-47 assault rifles and pistols, despite a new effort by the government to disarm its citizens. "Sunnis are worried about the return of Shiite militias and the rise of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr," the AP explains, while "Shiites are worried about the return of former Baath Party loyalists who fled to Yemen and Syria after the 2003 invasion. As those countries slip into chaos, the worry is that they might return to Iraq."