Bush: Troops on 'mission for peace'
'Heartfelt condolences' to families of troops killed in Mosul
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush expressed his "heartfelt condolences" to the families of American troops killed in Tuesday's rocket attack in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, telling reporters they died in "a vital mission for peace."
The explosion at a dining hall on a U.S. military base in Mosul killed 22 people and wounded 57, including Americans and Iraqis, U.S. military officials said.
Nineteen U.S. military personnel were among the dead, officials said.
"Any time of the year is a time of sorrow and sadness when we lose a loss of life," Bush said after a visit Tuesday with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "This time of year is particularly sorrowful for the families as we head into the Christmas season."
But Bush said U.S. troops in Iraq are engaged in "a very important and vital mission," to help establish a democratic state "in what was a place of tyranny and hatred and destruction."
"I'm confident democracy will prevail in Iraq," he said. "I know a free Iraq will lead to a more peaceful world."
Mosul has been a site of repeated attacks in recent weeks. When the U.S. military launched a major offensive in Falluja in November, there was concern some insurgents had fled to Mosul and would launch attacks from there.
The U.S. military recently conducted an offensive to try to flush out insurgents in Mosul, but the violence has continued.
Tuesday's attack came shortly after British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Baghdad on a surprise visit to Iraq.
During a news conference on Monday, Bush said "terrorists will attempt to delay" the Iraqi elections set for January 30. He said terrorists would attempt to intimidate the Iraqi people and "to disrupt the democratic process in any way they can."
But Bush said, "I'm confident that terrorists will fail, the elections will go forward and Iraq will be a democracy that reflects the values and traditions of its people."