NATION

Bombings in Iraq kill 65 a decade after invasion

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Insurgents sent a bloody message on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion, carrying out a wave of bombings across the country Tuesday that killed at least 65 people in the deadliest day in Iraq this year.

The nearly 20 attacks, most of them in and around Baghdad, demonstrated in stark terms how dangerously divided Iraq remains more than a year after American troops withdrew. More than 240 people were reported wounded.

It was Iraq's bloodiest day since Sept. 9, when an onslaught of bombings and shootings killed 92.

Violence has ebbed sharply since the peak of Sunni-Shiite fighting that pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007. But insurgents are still able to stage high-profile attacks, while sectarian and ethnic rivalries continue to tear at the fabric of national unity.

The symbolism of Tuesday's attacks was strong, coming 10 years to the day, Washington time, that President George W. Bush announced the start of hostilities against Iraq. It was already early March 20, 2003, in Iraq when the airstrikes began.

The military action quickly ousted Saddam Hussein but led to years of bloodshed as Sunni and Shiite militants battled U.S. forces and each other, leaving nearly 4,500 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis dead.

A decade later, Iraq's long-term stability and the strength of its democracy are uncertain. While the country is freer than it was during Saddam's murderous rule, its Shiite-led government is arguably closer to Tehran than to Washington. It faces an outpouring of anger by the Sunni minority that was dominant under Saddam and at the heart of the insurgency that followed his ouster.

"Today's attacks are new proof that the politicians and security officials are a huge failure," said Hussein Abdul-Khaliq, a resident of Baghdad's Shiite slum district of Sadr City, which was hit by three explosions that killed 10 people, including three commuters on a minibus.

Back in the states, those who've lost loved ones and comrades to the war honored their memories.

"I thought he had a lot of the solid attributes that would turn into a really good Navy Chief...So I left him a Chief's coin...," Manny Ruiz sniffled.

Ruiz was 21 when his plane was shot down over Iraq. Brian Steele was his chief petty officer at the time.

"We served together in Al Assad in the Anbar province of Iraq...," Ruiz said. "I can't believe it's been that long... It's hard to believe 10 years ago... It all started..."

Tony, an Army Reservist, was just 10 when the war started. He visited Arlington National Cemetery for the first time Tuesday.

"It's sobering, awe-inspiring, incredible, overwhelming...," he said.

Tony never served in Iraq, but he was in Afghanistan, where he accompanied a fallen soldier's casket home. It's the grave he came to visit in addition to honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq.

"I don't think it's really understood. I think a lot of people don't see it. I think a lot of people just forget there's a war going on," Tony continued.

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