Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, voiced confidence Saturday that the United States would not abandon its mission in this violence-racked country amid a postelection reevaluation of Iraq strategy.
“The weeks and months ahead will require courage and determination,” Casey said at a Veterans Day naturalization ceremony for 75 U.S. troops at Baghdad’s Camp Victory. “But succeed we will.”
His comments were among his first public statements since the resignation last week of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Washington political insiders have speculated that both Casey and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who was also at the ceremony, could leave their posts because of the Republican Party’s defeat at the polls Tuesday. Both men quickly left the ceremony after reading prepared statements.
At least 40 Iraqis and two European soldiers were reported killed in Iraq on Saturday.
The U.S. military indicated that it had come up empty-handed in its quest to find a soldier missing for nearly three weeks. It offered a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the recovery of Army Reserve Spc. Ahmed Qusai Taei, an American of Iraqi descent.
He was abducted Oct. 23 outside the U.S.-protected Green Zone in Baghdad while on a visit to his Iraqi wife and in-laws.
The European soldiers, a Slovak and a Pole, were killed overnight by a roadside bomb near the southern city of Kut, news agencies reported.
Iraq’s south has come under the sway of rival Shiite Muslim militias with anti-U.S. agendas.
Police in Najaf discovered a cache of antitank rockets, armor-piercing weapons and mortars hidden in the city’s ancient cemetery. In 2004, Najaf was the scene of intense street battles between U.S. forces and Shiite militias.
In the capital, two car bombs exploded near the main market, killing eight civilians and injuring 37. Almost daily explosions at the wholesale market have further stifled an already moribund economy.
In other violence, a roadside bomb in an upscale Sunni Muslim neighborhood in central Baghdad killed one and injured five. Another roadside bomb in west Baghdad killed three passersby and injured three.
News agencies reported that as many as 10 Shiites traveling south of Baghdad on minibuses were killed in an apparent sectarian attack, but the account could not be confirmed. Dozens more reportedly were kidnapped by the gunmen.
Assassins killed a police sergeant in east Baghdad and an official in Iraq’s intelligence service in south Baghdad as he locked up his car.
Gunmen killed two bodyguards of a former member of parliament in an east Baghdad shootout that left four people wounded, including the politician.
Iraqi police discovered the mutilated, bullet-riddled corpses of at least 24 men and a woman around the capital, police officials said.
Suicide bombers rammed U.S. military convoys near Taji, 20 miles north of the capital, and in east Baghdad, Iraqi police said. The military did not report any casualties from either incident.
Special correspondents in Baghdad and Najaf contributed to this report.