BAGHDAD — At least 17 Iraqis and two U.S. soldiers were killed Sunday in a wave of explosions, mostly in Baghdad, including a suicide bombing against police, security sources and the U.S. military said.
The bloodshed highlighted the tenuous situation around Baghdad, where attacks and assassinations still occur almost daily. It also drew attention to the continuing efforts to kill American troops by Sunni Arab and Shiite militants ahead of the scheduled departure of American forces at the end of the year. There has been an increase in the shelling around U.S. military bases inside Baghdad’s airport grounds as well as the U.S. Embassy compound in the fortified Green Zone enclave.
The U.S. military declined to provide details on the attack that killed the two soldiers in central Iraq, which includes the Baghdad area. The deaths brought the number of Americans killed to at least 4,454 since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, according to the latest figures on the website icasualties.org, which tracks U.S. military deaths.
Eleven American troops were killed last month, the deadliest since November 2009.
On Sunday morning, a car bomb targeted a U.S. military convoy near Taji, the site of a major military installation just north of Baghdad, but it caused no damage to the American vehicles, according to an Iraqi security official. When police gathered at the car bombing site, a suicide bomber approached and blew himself up, killing 10 police and wounding another 16 people, the official said.
Obama: ‘67 borders reflect longstanding policy
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama defended his endorsement of Israel’s 1967 boundaries as the basis for a future Palestine, telling America’s pro-Israel lobby Sunday that his views reflected longstanding U.S. policy that needed to be stated clearly.
He also said the Jewish state will face growing isolation without “a credible peace process.”
Obama tried to alleviate concerns that his administration was veering in a pro-Palestinian direction, placing his Mideast policy speech Thursday in the context of Israel’s security. He told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that those border lines must be subject to negotiated land swaps and said these principles reflected U.S. thinking dating to President Bill Clinton’s media tion efforts.
“If there’s a controversy, then it’s not based in substance,” Obama said in a well-received speech. “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I have done so because we cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace.”
The event was eagerly anticipated after Obama outlined his vision for the changing Middle East at the State Department on Thursday and then clashed in a White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a day later.
The speech came ahead of a weeklong trip for the president to Europe, where he’ll tend to old friends in the Western alliance and look to secure their help with the political upheaval across the Arab world and the decade-long conflict in Afghanistan.
Netanyahu said in a statement after Obama’s remarks that he supported the president’s desire to advance peace and resolved to work with him to find ways to renew the negotiations. “Peace is a vital need for us all,” Netanyahu said.
Militants storm Pakistani navy base, killing four
KARACHI, Pakistan — Islamist militants stormed a naval base in the Pakistani city of Karachi late Sunday, destroying a U.S.-supplied surveillance aircraft, firing rockets and battling commandos sent to subdue them in one of the most brazen attacks in years, officials said.
At least four navy personnel were killed and nine wounded in fighting at the Naval Station Mehran that was going on more than four hours after the strike began, said navy spokesman Irfan ul Haq. He did not know how many militants had been killed or wounded.
Between 10 and 15 attackers entered the high-security facility before splitting up into smaller groups, setting off explosions and hiding in the sprawling facility, he said.
“We are receiving fire from different directions,” said another spokesman, Salman Ali.
The coordinated strike rocked the country’s largest city just under three weeks after the death of Osama bin Laden in an American raid on the northwestern garrison city of Abbottabad, an event al-Qaida allied extremists here have vowed to avenge.
The unilateral American raid triggered a strong backlash against Washington, which is trying to support Pakistan in its fight against militants, as well as rare domestic criticism against the armed forces for failing to detect or prevent the operation.
The fact that militants were able to enter one of the country’s largest military bases is another embarrassing blow to the army and will raise questions over whether the attackers had inside information. That they targeted a U.S. supplied aircraft draws attention to American aid to the military, something generals here do not talk about, fearing criticism from the county’s fiercely anti-American population.
Bigger Icelandic eruption, but less airline angst
REYKJAVIK, Iceland — An Icelandic volcano was flinging ash, smoke and steam miles into the air Sunday, dropping a thick layer of gray soot in an eruption far more forceful — but likely far less impactful — than the one that grounded planes across Europe last year.
The country’s main airport was closed and pilots were warned to steer clear of Iceland as areas close to the Grimsvotn volcano were plunged into darkness. But scientists said another widespread aviation shutdown is unlikely, in part because the ash from this eruption is coarser and falling to Earth more quickly.
The volcano, which lies beneath the ice of the uninhabited Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland, began erupting Saturday for the first time since 2004. It was the volcano’s largest eruption in 100 years.
The ash from Grimsvotn — about 120 miles east of the capital, Reykjavik — turned the sky black Sunday and rained down on nearby buildings, cars and fields. Civil protection workers helped farmers get their animals into shelter and urged residents to wear masks and stay indoors. No ash fell on the capital.
Scientists said the eruption was unlikely to have the same global impact as last year’s eruption 80 miles away at the Eyjafjallajokull (pronounced ay-yah-FYAH-lah-yer-kuhl) volcano, which left 10 million travelers stranded around the world.
“It is not likely to be anything on the scale that was produced last year when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted,” University of Iceland geophysicist Pall Einarsson told The Associated Press. “That was an unusual volcano, an unusual ash size distribution and unusual weather pattern, which all conspired together to make life difficult in Europe.”
Still, Icelandic air traffic control operator ISAVIA established a 120 nautical mile no-fly zone around the volcano, closed Keflavik airport, the country’s main hub, and canceled all domestic flights. It said Keflavik would stay shut until at least noon Monday, canceling about 40 international flights.