BAGHDAD — Attacks fell in November to their lowest monthly level since the Iraq war began in 2003, despite recent high-profile bombings aimed at shaking public confidence, a top U.S. commander said Wednesday.
Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, the No. 2 U.S. commander here, blamed al-Qaida in Iraq for a spate of bombings that has killed nearly 50 people in Baghdad and elsewhere since Monday. The blasts took place despite an 80 percent drop in attacks nationwide since March, Austin said.
At least 33 people were killed and dozens wounded in multiple bombings Monday against Iraqi security forces in Baghdad and Mosul. Another 15 died in blasts Tuesday in the northern cities of Mosul and Tal Afar and in the southern city of Iskandariyah.
One civilian was killed and five were wounded Wednesday when a magnetic bomb attached to a minibus went off as the vehicle was carrying Education Ministry employees to work in eastern Baghdad, police said.
"What you've seen in the last several days is an attempt by al-Qaida and others to conduct high-profile attempts that are really aimed at intimidating the civilian population" and drawing media attention, Austin told reporters.
"Their intent is to erode the confidence of civilians and Iraqi security forces to create a picture that things are not going in the right direction."
Nevertheless, Austin said November "saw fewer attacks than any month since 2003" when the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. He gave no figures.
U.S. combat deaths were down in November too, falling to one of their lowest monthly levels of the war — eight. The drop suggests that extremists are focusing on Iraqi forces as the U.S. scales down its role on the battlefield.
Austin attributed the fall in violence to an increase in the number of Iraqi security forces on the streets as well as the arrest in recent months of a number of key figures from al-Qaida and Shiite extremist "special groups."