Official: U.S. Withdrawal Plans In Iraq Unchanged

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BAGHDAD, Aug. 16 (UPI) — A day of deadly attacks in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities bears hallmarks of similar attacks committed last year during Ramadan, a U.S. military official said.

U.S. military spokesman 1st Lt. Joseph Larrew said al-Qaida in Iraq is believed to have been responsible for the roughly 42 attacks across Iraq Monday in which at least 89 people died and 315 were wounded, Stars and Stripes reported Tuesday.

“While it’s too early to speculate, today’s attacks are eerily similar to the stream of large-scale, complex attacks that occurred here last year during Ramadan on Aug. 25,” Larrew said in an e-mail. “Their aim then was to shake the public’s confidence in the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces to defend this country.”

Ramadan is a holy month of fasting observed by Muslims.

Larrew said Monday’s attacks did not alter U.S. plans to draw down its forces from their current strength of about 47,000 by Dec. 31. The Iraqi and U.S. governments have not decided whether the drawdown will be a complete withdrawal, or whether up to 10,000 U.S. troops will stay to help train the Iraqi army and police forces.

While group claimed responsibility for the attacks Monday, in a voice recording posted on a Web site for al-Qaida in Mesopotamia last week, a spokesman said it was preparing a wide-scale strike, The New York Times reported.

“I promise you that we are on the right path,” spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said. “Thank God that we are doing very well here.”

Gunmen opened fire on worshipers at a mosque in Baghdad, killing seven people Monday, the Kuwaiti news service KUNA reported.

Police said militants wearing army uniforms took seven people outside and executed them. The victims were members of the so-called Sahwa committees, which defended installations and communities against al-Qaida across Iraq, KUNA said. Witnesses said papers left on the bodies indicated they were executed by Islamic State of Iraq followers.

The most violent attacks Monday were in central Kut, where 34 people died and 68 were injured in a double explosion.

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