US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld paid a surprise Christmas trip to Iraq in a bid to boost troops’ morale but a deadly explosion rocked western Baghdad soon after his departure.
The blast, thought to be the work of a suicide bomber in a fuel truck, shook the diplomatic quarter of the capital, close to the Jordanian mission. There was confusion over the number of casualties with reports of the death toll ranging from one to 12 people killed. Rumsfeld said it was an uncomfortable fact that nowhere was safe against surprise attack but that random terror was why so many US troops were in Iraq. “That fact is a truth and that truth drives us to the mission that you are on,” he said. “We simply cannot as Americans, as free people, as part of the world community go on the defensive and simply think we can succeed. We have to be on the offensive”. Visiting Mosul, Tikrit and Falluja, Rumsfeld admitted mistakes had been made in Iraq. However he maintained that despite the losses and bloodshed, for Iraqis and Americans, victory would be the alliance’s in the end. “I am deeply grateful to all of you,” he told dozens of soldiers in Mosul, scene of a suicide bomb blast on Tuesday that killed 22 people, 18 of them Americans. “You will look back in 10 or 20 or 30 years and know you were a part of something very important.”