Terrorists continue to use suicide bombers to kill large numbers of civilians. Three went off in Central Iraq today, killing seventy and wounding over a two hundred. Security officials believe that the terrorists are working off an inventory of car and personal bombs, prepared just for this "offensive." But it's also been noted that the quality of the suicide bombers has declined. Some have turned out to be people who were mentally ill (and easy to convince to kill themselves). In other cases, the suicide bombers are just carrying or driving the explosives, which are set off by remote control by someone else. It's suspected that some of the drivers in these cases had signed up to move explosives, not be there when they went off. This sort of thing has been done during other suicide bomber campaigns, and is simply a sign of difficulty in recruiting suicide bombers competent, or dedicated enough, to do the deed completely by themselves.
Terrorist attacks have killed over 400 people in the last three weeks, some 90 percent of them Iraqis. To put that in perspective, for a country the size of the United States, that would be some 4,000 dead Americans. Not surprisingly, the terrorists are hated by most Iraqis, including many Sunni Arabs, which means more tips from Iraqis about where the terrorists are. Car bomb factories are being found, where people are arrested and documents and computers seized. But al Qaeda has never been a traditional, top-down organization. So the documents and prisoners only tell of cells of an organization that is united only by common hatreds and religious prejudices.
It is known that one major source of people, weapons and money for the terrorism is Syria, and for the last three days, a reinforced battalion of American marines have been operating along the border, in Anbar province. Over a hundred terrorists have died, as they tried to defend their bases in local villages. Over a hundred people have been arrested, although only twenty or so have been kept in custody. The marines have had five killed (three in gun battles, two from a landmine). The terrorists apparently feel they cannot afford to lose free use of this border area. In addition to trying to defend villages, some of the terrorists even made a truly suicidal attack on a marine convoy. This included at least two suicide car bombs and many people with guns. At least a dozen terrorists were killed, while a few marines were wounded.
Having no success with the marines, the terrorists kidnapped the newly appointed governor of Anbar province, and said they would hold him until the marines left the area. The governor was a local tribal worthy who had been governor, for a while, when Saddam ran the country. In western Iraq, along the Syrian and Jordanian borders, it's mostly desert, Sunni Arab and tribal. Folks take their Islam seriously out there, and Osama bin Laden is a popular guy. And when force fails, you try influence. The marines told the government, and the terrorists, that they were not leaving and that the governor should make himself comfortable until he can be rescued.
The marines and soldiers are out in the desert because the Iraqi police and army have more of central Iraq under control. This means that coalition troops can go take care of other business. Coalition troops have not been in some areas of western Iraq since Saddam was toppled two years ago. More intelligence has been collected on the western desert in the past few months. UAVs, spies and a few informers made it clear that parts of the Syrian border, and villages on the Iraqi side, were hot spots for terrorist activity. Once the hot spots are cooled off, the Iraqi border guards will be moved in. Most of the border is already covered by the border guards, who are building several hundred fortified bases along all the borders. But in places like western Iraq, you have to run the heavily armed gangs out first.