U.S. could send more troops to Iraq
Attacks in five cities leave nearly 100 dead Thursday
Insurgents stage wave of attacks in Iraq.
With one week until the handover of power, some questions remain.
Iraq's interim prime minister receives a public death threat.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. military planners are preparing to send possibly as many as 15,000 additional ground troops to Iraq if the level of violence increases, CNN has learned.
That word comes as nearly 100 people were killed in insurgent attacks in five Iraqi cities Thursday.
The frequency and intensity of attacks against coalition forces, Iraqi officials and civilians have increased in recent weeks as the June 30 date for the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq nears.
In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Thursday, Gen. George Casey -- who will soon take over as the commander of coalition forces -- said U.S. Central Command is working on contingency planning for increased violence.
"That is CentCom doing some prudent planning in the event the security situation changes," he said. "But it is not a request for forces or even an informal request for forces.
"The insurgency is much stronger than I certainly would have anticipated," he told senators. "I think they have got support from external sources."
U.S. officials have warned for weeks that violence would get worse as the handover approached, and would continue afterward.
A senior coalition military official told reporters Thursday the increased attacks were not unexpected, and warned that more car bombs could be used in the insurgents' effort to terrorize Iraqi civilians and try to derail the fledgling democracy.
On Wednesday, Pentagon officials said a group of Army Reserve soldiers rarely tapped for duty could soon be heading to Iraq.
As many as 6,500 Individual Ready Reserve troops with critical skills needed in Iraq such as military police, infantry and engineers could be called up, Pentagon officials said.
A decision to call up these troops is expected within the next week, according to officials. (Full story)
Group claims responsibility for attacks
Terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has emerged as a key suspect in Thursday's wave of insurgent bombings and ambushes in Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosul and Ba'qubah that killed 92 people, officials said.
About 285 people were wounded in the attacks, according to Iraqi police and health officials.
Hours after the near-simultaneous strikes, the military wing of the Unification and Jihad, a group linked to al-Zarqawi, issued a statement on a Web site that claimed responsibility for attacking five police stations in Mosul; two locations in Ba'qubah, one in Ramadi and another in Baghdad. (Map)
The authenticity of the statement could not be verified.
The wave of attacks followed strikes Saturday and Tuesday by U.S. forces on "safe house" targets in Fallujah that killed about 38 people. The coalition believes al-Zarqawi followers were staying in the houses.
In insurgency violence last week, 35 people were killed in a car bombing near a Baghdad army recruiting station. On Tuesday, militants beheaded a South Korean civilian who had been seized last week by a group believed to be linked to al-Zarqawi.
Al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian-born Islamic militant U.S. officials say has close ties to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
U.S. officials say al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for attacks on U.S. troops, Iraqi civilians and others, including the August 2003 bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad.
They also blame him for the videotaped beheading of American businessman Nicholas Berg in May. The U.S. government has put a $10 million price on his head.
Mosul virtually paralyzed
Of the 92 dead Thursday, Iraqi health and police officials said 65 were killed in the northern city of Mosul; nine were killed in Al Anbar province, which includes Ramadi and Fallujah; and 13 died in Diyala region, which includes Ba'qubah. Five others died in Baghdad.
Hospital and coalition officials said the northern city of Mosul was virtually paralyzed. The assault on Mosul began shortly after 9 a.m. when three simultaneous car bombs hit separate targets.
In Ba'qubah, insurgents attacked a police station, and a gunbattle ensued. Armed insurgents freely roamed parts of the city, a local politician said.
U.S. forces responded with airstrikes on insurgent positions in the city north of the Iraqi capital, according to military officials with the 1st Infantry Division.
In Ramadi, a coalition military official said bodies were being pulled out of the rubble.
At a Baghdad checkpoint, a suicide bomber detonated himself in a southern section of Baghdad called Abu Dasheer.
And in Fallujah, U.S. forces battled insurgents and military officials, reporters said. According to journalists, American forces faced fierce resistance as they tried to enter a eastern industrial section of the city around 8 a.m. (midnight ET).
The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force said its actions in Fallujah were "strictly defensive in nature."
Other developmentsThe U.S. military began a hearing Thursday in the case of one of the seven U.S. soldiers accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners when they were prison guards at the Abu Ghraib facility. Spc. Sabrina Harman faced an Article 32 hearing, an similar to a civilian grand jury. The investigative proceeding in Baghdad determines whether there are "enough facts to warrant a court-martial or if charges should be dismissed," the military said.