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Bremer: U.S. to bolster Iraq border security

Move comes in aftermath of attacks in Baghdad, Karbala

Iraqis carry a coffin Wednesday of one of the victims of the previous day's attacks in Baghdad.
Iraqis carry a coffin Wednesday of one of the victims of the previous day's attacks in Baghdad.

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Shiite Muslims mourn the loss of victims killed in the explosions in Karbala.
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Angry Iraqis throw stones at U.S. troops in the aftermath of explosions at a Baghdad mosque.
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CNN's Jane Arraf describes the scene after explosions ripped through an Ashura celebration in Baghdad.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Following deadly attacks in Baghdad and Karbala on the holiest Shiite Muslim day of the year, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq promised Wednesday to shore up border patrols to prevent militants from entering the country.

L. Paul Bremer of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority said it is increasingly apparent that outsiders are perpetrating terror acts in Iraq.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities have blamed Tuesday's strikes in the capital and Karbala on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born militant who is suspected of calling for violence against Shiites to promote the fight against the coalition.

The attacks killed at least 117 people as crowds of Shiites packed into the cities to celebrate the Ashura holy day.

"Their purpose was clear: incitement of sectarian violence among Iraq's Muslims," Bremer said. "In spite of the death toll and in spite of the wounded, Iraqis from across the political spectrum have made clear in statements the effort to provoke sectarian violence has failed, and it will fail."

Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that "we have intelligence that ties Zarqawi to this attack," but he didn't elaborate.

An Arabic-language newspaper in London said it received a letter purportedly from al Qaeda denying responsibility for the attacks and blaming them on U.S. forces. CNN could not immediately determine the authenticity of the letter.

Bremer said the coalition is doubling the border police force, adding vehicles and police. He said $60 million has been allocated for the additional security. There are already 8,000 border police.

He called Monday's agreement on an interim constitution a historic democratic step, saying it contrasts with the "dark vision of the evildoers" responsible for the attacks.

The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council had planned to sign the transitional constitution Wednesday but delayed it during the mourning period for the victims of the bombings. It will be signed Friday, a council official said.

Bremer said the attacks will not deter the move to a political handover, set for June 30.

Before Bremer's remarks to reporters, three rockets were fired Wednesday night at coalition headquarters in central Baghdad. A coalition representative said one of the rockets landed within the "Green Zone," setting off a warning alarm. There were no injuries, the representative said.

Earlier Wednesday, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, an Army spokesman, and Dan Senor, a senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, defended security efforts amid questions about the failure to prevent the attacks.

"If you wanted absolute security yesterday, you could have assured that and guaranteed that by canceling the festivities," Kimmitt said. "We will not allow the terrorists to win. We will not be cowed."

Iraqis slammed the failure of the U.S.-led security effort. Kimmitt called such criticism unfair and said "Monday morning quarterbacking" is unhelpful.

He pointed to outer and inner cordons and checkpoints as well as shrine security designed to prevent car bombs.

Asked about doubts over the Iraq government's ability to run the country due to security problems, Kimmitt said any day after the June 30 handover will be "another day for the soldiers of the coalition."

"We will be here on July 1," said Kimmitt, who added that he doesn't see that date as significant regarding tactics, techniques, procedures and mission.

Three days of mourning

Iraq began a three-day mourning period Wednesday in the wake of the Ashura strikes.

Shiites and Sunnis attended a demonstration in Baghdad to show unity among the Iraqi people and condemn the attacks. Some of the dead were buried Wednesday, their coffins draped in flags that indicated they were martyrs.

The worst violence happened in Karbala, about 55 miles (88 kilometers) south-southwest of Baghdad. A suicide bomber detonated in the city center, and several other blasts apparently were caused by pushcarts laden with explosives left alongside roads, the officials said.

The devastation was horrific. Video showed dozens of bodies -- many dismembered and burned beyond recognition -- and scores of wounded.

There were wide disparities in the death toll, ranging from 117 fatalities by the coalition to 271 dead by an Iraqi Governing Council official.

In the latest figures, the coalition reported 85 people dead and 233 others wounded in Karbala, while Iraqi hospital sources put the death toll at least 100 people.

Iraqi police and the coalition have detained 15 people -- including four Farsi speakers, apparently from Iran -- for questioning in connection with the Karbala attack. The FBI will be assisting in the investigation.

Around the same time as the Karbala blasts, three suicide bombers detonated explosives at the al-Kadamiya mosque in Baghdad, killing 32 people and wounding 78 others, the coalition said.

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