At least 68 Iraqis have died and about 200 have been wounded after a series of three near simultaneous bombings outside three police stations this morning in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.
Among the dead include 20 Iraqi school children who were traveling near the blasts in school buses.
Until now the Shiite city of Basra has been one of the most peaceful and quiet cities in Iraq. The bombings marked the worst attacks in Basra since the US occupation began.
There were reports that when the British troops arrived at the scene of the bombings they were attacked with stones.
The three police stations were hit within minutes of each other at around 7:15 in the morning local time.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, 22 Iraqis died and another 92 were injured when the Abu Ghuraib prison came under mortar attack.
In Fallujah heavy fighting between the U.S. and the resistance began again this morning. U.S. gunships patrolled the skies. Both sides exchanged mortar fire. The U.S. began conducting door-to-door searches. U.S. officials say they killed at least nine Iraqis. At least 700 Iraqis have died in Fallujah this month.
Meanwhile, a car bomb blew off the front of a security office building in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh today. Reuters reports at 10 people were killed in the blast and the death toll is expected to rise.
In Washington Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said the worsening situation in Iraq may force the US to reintroduce the military draft.
During a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Hagel said “There’s not an American … that doesn’t understand what we are engaged in today and what the prospects are for the future. Why shouldn’t we ask all of our citizens to bear some responsibility and pay some price?”
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced Tuesday the Pentagon has drafted plans so it can quickly send more troops to Iraq if they are requested by General John Abizaid. 135,000 U.S. troops are already stationed in Iraq. But according to the New York Times any new forces will have to come from the National Guard reserves because the US has no more active duty troops available.
The U.S.-led coalition was dealt another setback Tuesday when the Dominican Republic announced it would join Spain and Hondoras in pulling its troops out of Iraq. Thailand is considering doing the same. The Los Angeles Times reports Secretary of State Colin Powell made personal calls to almost all of the members of the US-led coalition to assess their commitment to staying in Iraq.
Meanwhile former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger told the Senate Tuesday the US will likely have to maintain a high troop level in Iraq for up to five years and spend another $200 billion over the next three years to stabilize Iraq.
The nephew of Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi has been selected to head a tribunal of Iraqi judges and prosecutors to try Saddam Hussein.
In other Iraq news, ABC News is reporting three senior United Nations officials are suspected of taking multi-million dollar bribes from the Saddam Hussein regime through the oil-for-food program. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has announced there will be a full investigation.
In Israel, nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was released earlier today from prison 18 years after he leaked detailed information about Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program. He told reporters he had no regrets and that he had been held in cruel and barbaric conditions. We’ll hear from his press conference later in the show.
In other news from Israel, early this morning 25 Israeli tanks backed by helicopter gunships invaded the town of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza. Nine Palestinians have been killed there over the last day.
In Turkey, a court has ruled that Kurdish rights activist Leyla Zana and three other leading Kurds must remain in prison even though the European Court of Human Rights determined last year that their original trial was unfair.
The top editor at USA Today, Karen Jurgensen, has resigned a month after the paper revealed that its one-time star reporter Jack Kelley made up numerous stories.
On Tuesday night, Vice President Dick Cheney hailed the anti-abortion movement as a “great movement of conscience” at an annual awards dinner for the National Right to Life Committee.
Cheney went on to say “President Bush has often expressed his conviction that in a compassionate society, every child must be welcomed in life and protected in law. America still has some distance to travel before that hope is realized.”
Cheney’s speech came five days before a coalition of women’s groups are staging what is expected to be the largest abortion rights march in Washington in over a decade. Groups are estimating hundreds of thousands of people will take part in the March for Women’s Lives on Sunday. Organizers include NOW and Naral Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood.
And in Washington today, protesters are planning to rally outside the World Bank and IMF to mark the 60th birthday of the institutions. Activists plan to deliver thousands of birthday cards signed by people across the country calling for full debt cancellations to impoverished nations.