And, now, a new and terrible twist in the Iraq war — one that begs the question: “So what’s coming next?”
Three suicide bombers driving chlorine-laden trucks struck in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, killing two policemen and forcing about 350 Iraqi civilians and six U.S. troops to seek treatment for exposure to the gas, the military said Saturday.
The attacks came after back-to-back bombings last month released chlorine gas, prompting the U.S. military to warn that insurgents are adopting new tactics in a campaign to spread panic.
Just after 4 p.m. Friday, a driver detonated explosives in a pickup truck northeast of Ramadi, wounding one U.S. service member and one Iraqi civilian, the military said in a statement.
That was followed by a similar explosion involving a dump truck south of Fallujah in Amiriyah that killed two policemen and left as many as 100 local citizens showing signs of chlorine exposure, with symptoms ranging from minor skin and lung irritations to vomiting, the military said.
The gas attack yesterday was the seventh this year in which insurgents have used chemical gas bombs on civilians and security forces in what appears to be a new terror tactic for al-Qaeda militants…
….In each attack a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives and gas canisters near police and civilian targets.
Iraqi interior ministry operations director Brigadier-General Abdel Karim Khalaf confirmed the bombings and suggested they may have been carried out to avenge recent government successes against insurgents in Ramadi.
The attacks are troubling not only because of what it means in Iraq but because it raises the specter of how a dirty bomb could possibly be detonated in the United States — with all of its swiftness and terrible physical and psychological impact. Is the U.S. prepared to prevent such an attack?
UPDATE: Writes Iraq the Model (an Iraqi blog):
With this series of dirty chemical bombings a war between al-Qaeda and the tribes in Anbar is no longer a possibility. It just became a fact…..
…..If this indicates anything it indicates that al-Qaeda’s is reprioritizing the targets on the hit list. The reason: al-Qaeda is sensing a serious threat in the change of attitude of the tribes toward them and perhaps the apparently successful meeting of the sheiks with Maliki and the agreements that were made then was the point at which open war had to be declared.
The tribes in Anbar are stubborn and they have many ruthless warriors. That’s a proven fact and it looks like Al-Qaeda had just made their gravest mistakeâ€”their once best friends are just about to become their worst enemy.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.