Rebel attacks hit Baghdad as Rumsfeld visits

 

This morning's suicide car bombing which killed at least 17 people in Baghdad  came as US Defence Secretary Mr Donald Rumsfeld began an unannounced visit to Iraq to gauge efforts to calm violence before January elections.

Mr Rumsfeld flew into a marine airbase in Iraq's western desert to take a first-hand look at operations to quell the raging insurgency, in his first such visit in five months.

He flew to al-Asad desert airbase near Haditha, 200 km northwest of Baghdad, from Bahrain to meet marine commanders and address about 1,500 marines.

Chief Pentagon spokesman Mr Lawrence Di Rita said it was a chance for Mr Rumsfeld to get his own take on Iraq's fledgling security forces and arrangements ahead of the elections.

Mr Rumsfeld, an architect of the 2003 invasion, last visited Iraq on May 13th, when he went to Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison amid a scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US forces.