US admits more troops are needed

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The Independent Online

General George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, has admitted that extra American troops may be drafted into Baghdad and the surrounding area to combat the recent surge in sectarian killings.

Highlighting the growing risk from insurgents killing Shia Muslims, and from Shia militias responsible for the indiscriminate killing of Sunnis, General Casey said more troops were needed to tackle "death squads".

"So you have both sides now attacking civilians, and that has caused the recent spike in violence", he said at a joint press conference yesterday with the US Secretary of Defence, Dick Cheney, who was on a surprise visit to Iraq. Asked if the violence might mean more troops in Baghdad, General Casey replied: "It may, yes."

Dozens have died in or around Baghdad during the past four days. The situation has been described as a low-level civil war.

On Sunday, more than 40 Sunni Arabs were massacred by Shia gunmen. The killings were prompted by the bombing of Shia shrines the previous day.