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Brigadier General Kevin Bergner on the Samarra Bombing

No transcript yet, but we just spoke with BGen Bergner, who is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Effects and MNFI Spokesman.  He was able to give us some details on the bombing in Samarra today, and how the Iraqi government and its US allies are responding.

Bergner said that the Coalition views the attack as an affront to the values and dignity of peoples from all religions, and was joined with the people of Iraq in condemning the action.  Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus met with Maliki, Talibani and other leaders of Iraq today to determine what we can do to provide support to their efforts, but the response is going to be Iraqi-led.

Maliki has announced a curfew in the hope of preventing revenge attacks, and therefore of keeping a lid on violent cycles of the type we saw after the earlier bombing at this mosque.  The Iraqi government has dispatched extra ISF to the area.  They will also be forming an investigatory commission to assemble all the details about this bombing and how it took place, who carried it out, how and why.  We will be providing forensic and technical aid to the Iraqis in this matter.

Bergner said that Petraeus and Crocker felt the attack had a galvanizing effect on the leadership of Iraq.  They hope that the leadership will be able to rise to the challenge, and be strengthened by it.

I asked the general exactly who had been in charge of security at the mosque.  His reply was that there were, according to his current understanding, two layers of security that the enemy had to deal with in order to carry out the attack.  Surrounding streets and approaches to important mosques through nearby neighborhoods are controlled by Iraqi Police.  He was not yet sure what unit of IP was on duty on this occasion, and did not yet know if there were Iraqi army units there.

Inside the mosque, there is a separate organization of "facility protective service" (or "shrine police") who are responsible for security within the mosque itself.  That was also the arrangement here, according to his information.

Because of Coalition awareness of the sensitivity of these areas, no Coalition forces were involved in security for this or any other important mosque. 

The general said that the profile of the attack made him believe that AQI was responsible, but that investigations into the matter would shed more light on the subject.