A suicide car bomber linked to al-Qaeda killed 13 people in Baghdad yesterday, the first anniversary of former Iraqi president Saddam Hus-sein's capture, and clashes resumed in Fallujah, a one-time insurgent stronghold that US forces believed they had conquered. Seven US Marines died in combat in western Iraq.
The violence underlines the difficulties US-led forces have encountered in the year since Sad-dam's ouster.
US military commanders ac-knowledge they initially underestimated the strength of the insurgent backlash and admit coalition-trained Iraqi security forces are not yet up to securing the country.
The fighting in Anbar, a vast province including Fallujah and Ramadi, was the deadliest for US forces since eight Marines were killed by a car bomb outside Fallujah on Oct. 30. The deaths brought to nearly 1,300 the number of US troops kil-led in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March last year.
In Baghdad, a man driving an explosives-laden car waiting in line to enter the western Harthiyah gate of the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the US embassy and Iraq's interim government, detonated the vehicle as he drove toward the checkpoint, Iraqi police said.
Dr. Mohammed Abdel Satar of Baghdad's Yarmouk Hospital said 13 people were killed and at least 15 wounded in the suicide blast.
The US military said there were no injuries among its troops.
Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda in Iraq group claimed responsibility for the bombing in a statement posted on an Islamic Internet site regularly used by militants.
"On this blessed day a lion from the [group's] Martyrs' Brigade has gone out to strike at a gathering of apostates and Americans in the Green Zone," the group said in a statement posted on the Web site.
Shortly afterward, three explosions were heard in central Baghdad, but it was unclear whether any damages or casualties were caused. US forces were investigating.
In the town of Mishahda, 40km north of Baghdad, gunmen attacked an Iraqi National Guard patrol, killing three soldiers and wounding three others. The attackers fled, witnesses said.
In other developments, Iraq's interim President Ghazi al-Yawer said in an interview broadcast yesterday that the US-led coalition was wrong to dismantle the Iraqi security forces. It would have been more effective to screen out former regime loyalists than to rebuild from scratch, he said.
"As soon as we have efficient security forces that we can depend on, we can see the beginning of the withdrawal of forces from our friends and partners and I think it doesn't take years, it will take months," al-Yawer said.
Meanwhile, in the southern city of Basra, insurgents fired mortar shells yesterday at the British consulate but caused no casualties.
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