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Suicide Bombings in Iraq on the Rise

Monday, April 02, 2007

By JAMES CALDERWOOD, Associated Press Writer

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — 

Suicide bombings against civilians in Iraq have increased dramatically since the start of the year and are deadlier than ever, a Middle East think tank said in a report Monday.

The study by the Gulf Research Center found 92 confirmed suicide attacks against civilian targets in February and March compared with 62 in the last two months of 2006.

"Since January they have sustained the highest level of suicide attacks since 2005, and higher casualty rates than at any period of the war," said Nicole Stracke, the report's editor.

Stracke suggested that attackers were trying to discredit U.S. plans to quell the violence, particularly the decision announced in January to send thousands of more troops to Iraq.

Favored "soft" targets included cafes, weddings, funerals, markets and Shiite Muslim religious sites _ all of which are far less protected than "hard" targets like U.S. military bases and Iraqi government offices.

About 60 percent of Iraq's suicide attacks were carried out with explosives-rigged vehicles. Attacks using multiple bombs are also on the rise, Stracke said. Al-Qaida in Iraq and four other groups are behind most of the mayhem, according to the report.

The report also looked at the impact of suicide attacks worldwide.

Use of the tactic is increasing fastest in Afghanistan _ by more than 750 percent _ jumping from 21 in 2005 to 180 in 2006, the report said.

"The success of suicide bombing in Iraq is having an effect everywhere," said Mustafa Alani, a military analyst at the Gulf Research Center.

Suicide bombers are especially effective largely because they can switch targets or change routes, the report said. While bombs carried by individuals in vests or backpacks can kill victims as far as 30 yards away, a car bomb's kill zone stretches as far as 400 yards.

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