BAGHDAD, Iraq – Five roadside bombs killed at least three people in Iraq on Sunday — the three-year anniversary of the Baghdad's fall to U.S. forces. Iraq police and soldiers bolstered security in the capital to prevent attacks on "Freedom Day."
The holiday marks the April 9, 2003, event in which a huge crowd of Iraqis cheered as U.S. Marines hauled down the statue of Saddam Hussein on Firdous Square, marking the collapse of his regime.
American troops killed eight suspected insurgents in a pre-dawn raid north of the capital. Drivers in the capital were stopped and searched by Iraqi forces at extra checkpoints in the city.
Most Iraqis welcomed the end of Saddam's regime, but the insurgency, militias, rising sectarian violence, electricity shortages and political vacuum have all sapped much of the enthusiasm generated by the collapse of dictatorship.
"Iraqis are pleased and displeased," said Qassim Hassan, a soldier. "They are pleased because they got rid of tyranny and dictatorship, but they are displeased because they went from bad to worse. The Iraqi street is seething between sadness and terrorism."
Even U.S. officials acknowledged the mixed nature of the Iraq war's current stage.
"Despite much progress, much work remains," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. George W. Casey, Jr. said in a joint statement. "The legitimate security forces must quell sectarian violence. Population centers must be secure to allow Iraq's new institutions to take root and businesses to flourish. Finally, the people must be able to trust their leadership."
Efforts to form a new government have reached a deadlock over the nomination of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari for a new term. Shiite politicians met Sunday to discuss the impasse, but made no decision to replace al-Jaafari as their nominee, officials said.
Instead, representatives from the seven factions of the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite bloc, formed a three member committee better ascertain the reasons for Sunni and Kurdish opposition to al-Jaafari, said Shiite official Ridha Jawad Taqi.
The Shiite alliance will meet again Monday to review the committee's findings, he said.
Sunni and Kurdish leaders blame al-Jaafari for failing to curb rising sectarian violence. A Sunni politician, Saleh al-Mutlaq, suggested that Shiites pick an independent candidate for prime minister, one who does not come from one of the major political parties.
Until a new government is in place, the violence is not expected to decrease and the U.S. government is unlikely to begin troop withdrawal.
In a pre-dawn raid Sunday, clashes erupted when U.S. forces surrounded a suspected safehouse and nearby tent on the northern outskirts of Baghdad. After being fired upon, troops gunned down five suspected insurgents, and three others were killed in an air strike.
Bombs and weapons were found inside the house, a U.S. statement said.
Sunday's roadside bombs killed at least two civilians and a policeman. One targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed a passer-by in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of the capital, and another bomb meant for police killed a civilian when it exploded at Maysaloun Square in eastern Baghdad.
Other bombings around Baghdad killed a policeman and wounded about a dozen others, police said. One of the attacks targeted police near a Sunni mosque in the western neighborhood of Ghazaliyah, wounding at least three people, police said. Another targeted a convoy of American military police, but there were no casualties, the U.S. military said.
Police discovered four bodies, handcuffed and at least one shot in the head, in the Dora district of southern Baghdad.
In Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, a man allegedly making a bomb was killed when it accidentally exploded inside a house, police said. Police arrested six others in the house after hearing the explosion, police Maj. Karim al-Tamimi said.
In Najaf, officials raised the death toll from last week's car bombing of the Imam Ali mosque to 13. Three Iraqis wounded in the bombing died Saturday, said Dr. Issa Mohammed, director of the morgue at Najaf General Hospital.
An insurgent umbrella organization called the Mujahedeen Shura Council claimed responsibility for a Saturday attack against the Anbar provincial government headquarters in Ramadi, 75 miles west of Baghdad. U.S. officers said it was the strongest attack in six weeks, though there were no American casualties.
The "Freedom Day" holiday appeared to draw little public attention. The Iraqi Islamic Party, a the biggest Sunni party, issued a statement rejecting the day, saying it was "an anniversary of occupying Iraq, not liberating it."
But some Iraqis embraced the memory of Hussein's statue coming to the ground.
"This is a dear day — we got rid of the dictatorship," said Fadhil Abul-Sebah. "It doesn't mark the fall of Baghdad, it marks the fall of Saddam ... and the regime, because Baghdad will never fall."