Baghdad, Iraq An al-Qaida-linked suicide bomber blew up his vehicle Monday near cars waiting to enter the Green Zone, home to the U.S. Embassy and Iraq's interim government, killing 13 Iraqis on the anniversary of Saddam Hussein's capture.
Early today, the military reported two more U.S. Marines were killed in action in Iraq's volatile western Anbar province, taking the number of Marines killed in the region in the past three days to 10.
As insurgents continued to step up attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces ahead of next month's elections, the country's interim president said Washington was wrong for dismantling Iraq's security forces, including its 350,000-strong army, after last year's invasion.
"Definitely dissolving the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior was a big mistake," Ghazi al-Yawer told British Broadcasting Corp. radio, saying it would have been more effective to screen out former regime loyalists than to rebuild from scratch.
He added: "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."
U.S. military commanders, however, say American forces will be in Iraq for several years and that troop numbers will rise from 138,000 to 150,000 before the Jan. 30 national elections, which many Iraqis fear could be targeted by militants opposed to the occupation and bent on derailing the political process.
Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaida in Iraq group claimed credit for Monday's deadly attack in central Baghdad, where a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives-packed car near a checkpoint leading into the heavily fortified Green Zone, killing 13 Iraqis and wounding 15. No U.S. troops were injured.
A U.S. soldier with the 1st Corps Support Command was killed and another wounded Monday in a vehicle accident near a military base in Balad, 50 miles north of the capital. It was unclear what caused the accident.
Two Marines assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were killed in action Monday "while conducting security and stabilization operations" in the vast Anbar province west of Baghdad, the military said in a statement.