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Iraqi Security Forces Show Unity Despite Sectarian Violence

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2006 – Iraq's security forces are providing a model of unity for their countrymen, working together to maintain security in the face of sectarian violence, a U.S. spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq told reporters in Baghdad this weekend.

Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch called the days following the Feb. 22 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra a "difficult ... and confusing time" for Iraq, but said officials see no indication that a civil war is imminent. "There have been pockets of violence, but we don't see that as a precursor to civil war," he told reporters during a Feb. 25 news conference.

Lynch credited strong leadership in the Iraqi government and among with helping bring calm to the country after violence erupted in the wake of the bombing of the sacred Shiite shrine.

He also cited cohesion within Iraq's security forces with helping quell the violence.

"We are not seeing rifts established inside the Iraqi security forces. We are not seeing members of the Iraqi Army -- Sunni vs. Shiite -- fighting amongst themselves," Lynch told reporters. "We are seeing a nationalist security force, doing their mission, safeguarding the citizens and protecting their interests."

Iraqi and coalition security forces have stepped up patrols and manned more roadblocks in areas of friction, Lynch said. They are also helping verify reports of violence that Lynch said have proven to be greatly inflated.

These exaggerated reports make the Iraqi people believe the violence is more widespread and severe than it really is, Lynch said. This feeds into terrorists' efforts to incite fear and draw a wedge between the country's sects, he said.

"What the terrorist was trying to do with that (Samarra) attack was to incite sectarian violence. He was continuing to try to derail a democratic process and discredit the Iraqi government and that is why that attack took place," Lynch said.

Inflated reports of the violence following the incident support that effort, he said.

The media reported 51 mosques attacked following the Samarra incident, 23 of them receiving significant damage. But in reality, as of noon Feb. 25, 22 mosques were attacked, with six receiving significant damage, Lynch said.

Iraqi and coalition forces verified reports of attacks either by visiting the sites personally or reviewing images captured by unmanned aerial vehicles, he said. "Every report we have had, we have worked to confirm or deny," he said.

Civilian murders are up following the incident, Lynch acknowledged, but nowhere near the 200-plus reported in the media, he said. As of Feb. 25, Iraqi and coalition officials had confirmed 119 murders, he said.

Lynch expressed concern that the number was up from the previous average of 10 a day. "Clearly that is an increase in terms of numbers of murders, so we are watching that closely," he said.

Among 45 demonstrations throughout Iraq, 32 in Baghdad alone, only one in Baghdad turned violent, Lynch noted.

The other 31 "were peaceful demonstrations where the people of Iraq - Shiite and Sunni and Kurd - came out to the streets to demonstrate against the terrorist act and the attack on the Golden Mosque," he said. "And that is what you would expect in a free society."

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