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Iraqi Security Thwarts Insurgent Efforts to Stop Referendum

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2005 – Increased numbers of Iraqi security forces and government-implemented precautions combined to thwart insurgents' desire to stop the Iraqi Oct. 15 constitutional referendum, a senior U.S. military officer said today in Baghdad.

Roughly 63 percent of registered voters -- about 10 million Iraqis -- went to the polls to vote on a new constitution, Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said.

Officials reported "a significant reduction in the number of attacks" during the referendum compared to during the Jan. 30 elections, Lynch said.

For example, he said, there were 299 attacks across Iraq on Jan. 30, while there were 89 on Oct. 15. And, he added, there were 88 insurgent attacks on polling sites during the Jan. 30 election, compared to just 19 on those sites on the day of voting for the constitutional referendum.

The insurgents "have declared war" against the establishment of a democratic process in Iraq, yet they "were not able" to derail the referendum, Lynch said.

There was an increase in foreigner-conducted suicide attacks in the days and weeks leading up to the referendum, Lynch said. However, he said, those assaults proved ineffective in stopping the voting.

The insurgents failed to disrupt the referendum largely because Iraqi security forces were actively safeguarding polling places and other areas, Lynch said. Also, Iraqi-government ordered curfews, roadblocks, and weapons bans curtailed insurgents' mobility and ability to conduct terror operations.

U.S. and coalition forces served in a backup role for the referendum.

Today, more than 206,000 trained and equipped Iraqi soldiers and police are on the job, Lynch said, compared to about 138,000 available during the Jan. 30 elections.

Improved security provided by Iraqi security forces has influenced more Iraqis to help out in elections, Lynch said. For example, he said, about 110,000 Iraqis had applied to be poll workers for the Jan. 30 elections. In contrast, Lynch said, there were 450,000 applicants for those positions for the Oct. 15 referendum.

With referendum voting over, Iraqis will select a new government during December elections, Lynch said.

"We're very happy for the people of Iraq as they work their way towards democracy and a new life," Lynch said.

The mission in Iraq "has not stopped," Lynch said, adding, "Now is not the time for complacency; now is the time for increased awareness."

The insurgents, Lynch said, "are still there. They still want to derail the democratic process. They still want to discredit the Iraqi government, so operations continue."

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