BAGHDAD — Iraq has defeated terrorism and is well on the road to recovery after five years of war, a confident Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared. Then the lights went out.
Maliki, known for his dour gaze and steely nerves, tried to continue his speech. But his bodyguards would have none of that.
They hustled him off the stage — apparently fearing that the power failure might be part of a plot against the prime minister.
Maliki's speech Thursday was an attempt to boost national morale on the anniversary of the start of the war. But its abrupt end was a reminder of the country's persistent problems and the obstacles ahead.
Maliki delivered his remarks at a cultural festival in Hillah, a mostly Shiite city about 60 miles south of Baghdad.
Maliki promised to strengthen Iraq's role in world affairs, assuring the Iraqi people that their nation "cannot be anything but strong, unified and active."
Violence: Three police officers were killed in a roadside bombing and a shooting in Mosul, which the U.S. military describes as al-Qaida's last urban stronghold in Iraq. Another police officer was reported killed in the southern city of Kut.
The U.S. military said troops killed seven suspected insurgents trying to plant a roadside bomb north of Baghdad the day before. Iraqi police in Samarra said the dead were civilians trying to repair their car along the roadside.
Military: Top U.S. military leaders presented Defense Secretary Robert Gates with their strategy for future force levels in Iraq, including expected recommendations for a pause in troop cuts for as much as six weeks later this summer.