More blasts rocked Baghdad yesterday, spreading yet more carnage during what was already Iraq's worst week for bombings since the US invasion, and as US casualties continued to mount.
For the fourth time this year a bomb exploded in bustling Tehran Square in downtown Baghdad, wounding at least 20 day laborers waiting at a spot popular for seeking work, security officials said.
In the north of the city, a bomb exploded in a mixed Sunni and Shiite district, killing two civilians, according to a security source. And in Samawa, south of the capital, gunmen murdered two women and a girl in an apparent sectarian attack, police said.
The latest attacks came after a US military spokesman told reporters that attacks by car bombs and roadside booby traps are running at an all-time high.
Iraqi and US forces have responded to the violence wracking Baghdad with Operation Together Forward, a joint security plan which has brough 15,000 US troops and more than 40,000 Iraqi soldiers and police onto the streets.
By Monday, they had "cleared approximately 95,000 buildings, 80 mosques and 60 muhallas [small districts], detained more than 125 terrorist suspects, seized more than 1,700 weapons, registered more than 750 weapons and found 35 weapons caches."
However, house-to-house searches have been cut back during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The loyalty of Iraqi security forces has also been in question, with some Shiite-dominated units accused of collaborating with the militias and death squads fighting a sectarian dirty war which leaves 100 people dead every day.
Iraq on Wednesday demobilized an entire 800-strong police brigade and quarantined them in a US military base where they will receive what a US spokesman said was "anti-militia, anti-sectarian, national unity training."
"There was clear evidence that there was some complicity in allowing death squad elements to move freely, when in fact they were supposed to be impeding their movement," Major General William Caldwell told reporters.
Meanwhile, a video claiming to show two US soldiers being shot by an insurgent sniper in Iraq was posted on the Internet yesterday by an al-Qaeda-linked group.
The footage shown on the video was blurred and edited. While the subtitle said "Hunting two American soldiers in Anbar," the pictures showed only one soldier falling to the ground as if he had been shot, and his body is quickly edited out of the street scene.
The video's authenticity could not be confirmed, but it was posted by the Mujahedeen Shura Council -- an umbrella organization of insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq -- on an Islamic Web site known to be a clearing house for al-Qaeda material.
The video shows three soldiers walking along a pavement near a mosque. Shots are heard and a soldier in the background disappears behind a white truck, having possibly been hit. Then a soldier in front of the vehicle falls down, apparently shot. But before other soldiers can reach him, his body is edited out of the footage and the tape is replayed in slow motion. No date is given.
In other news, two US Marines pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to murdering a 52-year old Iraqi civilian, at a pre-court martial hearing in Camp Pendleton, California.
The charges relate to the death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad on April 26 in Hamdania.