Militants killed five police officers -- including a police commissioner -- on the second anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, as the insurgency pressed on with its tactic of targeting Iraqi security forces, Shiites and Kurds and focusing less on US troops.
Newly elected Shiite and Kurdish leaders marked the March 19, 2003, start of the war with a fresh promise to form a government by the end of the month, when the National Assembly convenes for only the second time, nearly two months after lawmakers were elected.
In Waco, Texas, US President George W. Bush said "the Iraqi people are taking charge of their own destiny."
In his weekly radio address, Bush saluted the more than 1,500 troops who have died in the war.
"I know that nothing can end the pain of the families who have lost loved ones in this struggle, but they can know that their sacrifice has added to America's security and the freedom of the world," he said. "Because of our actions, freedom is taking root in Iraq, and the American people are more secure."
In violence Saturday, gunmen killed Ahmed Ali Kadim, a Baghdad regional police commissioner, as he traveled to his office in the Doura neighborhood. In the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk, attackers killed a policeman, then bombed his funeral procession, killing three other officers, including the cousin of Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader pegged to become Iraq's next president.
A suicide attacker trying to kill US troops in the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, 112km west of Baghdad, prematurely detonated his car bomb, killing only himself, Iraqi police and the US military said.
Despite the continuing attacks, the top US general in Iraq, Army General George Casey, said recently that the level of violence against US troops had dropped significantly since the Jan. 30 elections. That appeared to be the result of a tactical shift by the insurgency, made up mostly of Sunni Arabs who were dominant under Saddam, to focus violence on majority Shiites and Kurds, two groups persecuted under the dictator's Baath Party rule.
The Jordanian-born terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his al-Qaeda in Iraq group have said they hope their relentless wave of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings will lead to a sectarian war.
Shiites make up about 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people, while Sunni Arabs make up about 20 percent of the population. Kurds, who are Sunni but mostly secular, make up 15 to 20 percent.
Sunni Arabs mostly stayed away from the elections, either because they feared reprisals or because they chose to boycott them.
"The terrorists have one policy. They want to prevent the formation of a democratic government and want to draw the people of Iraq into a sectarian war," said Ali al-Faisal, a member of the Shiite clergy-backed United Iraqi Alliance.
"In the past, they were targeting the American forces because they were in charge of security. After the new Iraqi army and police were established, and succeeded in maintaining security and began annihilating them, they shifted their attacks. But they will fail because there is a real intent to fight terrorism," al-Faisal said.