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Struggle for Iraq
Click on the events below to read about Iraq's history
Saddam's rise:
Iran-Iraq war:
Gulf War:
1990 - 1991
Second war:
Young activist
Hardline deputy
War breaks out
Israeli bombing
Chemical warfare
Western support
Truce and debt
Kuwait invasion
Desert Storm
Scud missiles
Civilian casualties
Ground war
Iraqi ceasefire
After the war
No-fly zones
Desert Fox
Inspectors barred
US-led invasion
Saddam captured
Iraq in turmoil
Trial of Saddam

In the months following President Bush's declaration that major combat operations had ended, Iraq descends into disorder and chaos.

Looting and lawlessness rack large swathes of the country. A insurgency comprised of disparate tribal militias, Saddam loyalists and foreign Islamic radicals begin a guerrilla campaign of attacks directed at coalition forces, Shia and Kurdish Iraqis, and Westerners.

Citing a lack of manpower, the US army does little to stop the looting while the dissolution of the Iraqi army and Ba'ath party structure leaves many areas of the country in a state of anarchy.

In August 2003, a truck bomb destroys the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad killing 23 people including UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, prompting the organisation to withdraw from Iraq.

Despite the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003, violence continues unabated.

In March 2004, a wave of suicide bomb attacks on Shia pilgrims attending a religious festival in Karbala leaves 140 dead. April to May sees a Shia uprising against the coalition by forces loyal to Moqtada Sadr, while US troops lay siege to the town of Falluja which had fallen under the control of Sunni militants.

In June, photographic evidence emerges of Iraqi detainees being abused by US military guards in Baghdad's Abu Graib prison.

The same month, the US hands power to an interim Iraqi administration headed by Iyad Allawi. But in August fighting breaks out in Najaf, and in November the US begins another major operation against insurgents in Falluja.

Jordanian born militant Abu Musab Zarqawi rises to prominence as the self-styled leader of "Al-Qaeda in Iraq". Zarqawi orchestrates a high-profile campaign of kidnappings and attacks, including the beheadings of American Nick Berg and Briton Ken Bigley - grim footage of which is published on the internet.

In January 2005 hopes of a watershed come as 8 million Iraqis vote in the country's first free elections for a Transitional National Assembly.

However, violence continues to spiral as the year progresses, with increasing numbers of sectarian killings and attacks on coalition forces. Some cities become no-go areas for all but the heaviest armed troops.

In July a report by the non-governmental group Iraq Body Count suggests that some 25,000 people may have died since the 2003 US-led invasion.

The following month the political process hits an impasse when the draft constitution is endorsed by Shia and Kurdish representatives, but not the significant Sunni minority.

In January 2006 the Shia-led United Iraqi Alliance emerges as winner of the country's first elections for a full term assembly, but fails to gain an overall majority.

Four months of political deadlock follow, only ending when newly re-elected President Talabani asks Shia compromise candidate Nouri Maliki to form a new government

Violence and lawlessness continue to increase. In May and June, the UN estimates that around 100 civilians are being killed every day.

The death of Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi in a US airstrike in June does little to deter the wider insurgency.

In October US Major General William Caldwell paints a gloomy picture of the deteriorating security situation in Baghdad, revealing a 22% increase in attacks despite a fresh military initiative.

In November, more than 200 people are killed in a wave of car bombings in mostly Shia areas of the capital in the worst attack in the city since 2003. Some media organisations around the world begin to openly refer to Iraq being in a state of "civil war".

The following month, the Iraq Study Group delivers a report to President Bush that the situation in the country is "grave and deteriorating".

It warns that Iraq is facing the prospect of sliding chaos, which could trigger the collapse of the government and possibly a humanitarian crisis.

Aftermath of a car bomb in Baghdad, December 2006
Car bombings are an everyday threat

Abu Musab Zarqawi

Jordanian born militant Zarqawi was linked to dozens of murders and kidnappings


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