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Iraqi Forces Limit Damage, Save Lives in Recent Violence, General Says

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2006 – Decisions made by a capable Iraqi government and executed by capable Iraqi security forces have limited damage and saved lives during recent violence, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman in Baghdad said today.

"The Iraqi government, at the point of crisis, decided to impose certain emergency measures," Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch told reporters during a news conference. "They relied on the Iraqi security forces to implement those measures."

To date, beginning with the Feb. 22 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, there have been 33 attacks on mosques across Iraq, Lynch said. The attacks destroyed a second mosque and caused significant damage to seven others.

In response to the Shiite-vs.-Sunni sectarian violence, which has resulted in the confirmed deaths of 319 civilians and 21 mostly peaceful protests, the Iraqi government put its security forces on full alert. It also relied on curfews and a vehicle ban in Baghdad, measures that worked to dampen violence during last year's constitutional referendum and elections, to keep violence from escalating out of control, Lynch said.

Civilian murders increased after the officials lifted the curfews and vehicle ban, Lynch said, because the enemy also used the down time to prepare for surge operations. However, the general added, the measures probably saved many lives.

"Over the last three days, just inside Baghdad, we've seen seven (vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices), one suicide attack and one IED," he said. Seventy-one civilians were killed in those attacks and 62 were injured.

Lynch said despite the increased attack level, "it could have been much, much worse."

Ongoing joint operations in Anbar province are focused on disrupting the insurgency and defeating Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's network, which is orchestrating these attacks to incite sectarian violence, Lynch said.

The operation is continuing with good effects, he said. For example, one 30 miles northeast of Fallujah on Feb. 27 uncovered an al Qaeda facility used for training and bomb making.

"Detailed planning and execution led to the apprehension of 61 members of the Zarqawi network in Iraq, to include some of his critical facilitators," Lynch said. "Inside this facility was clearly indications of bomb making (and) munitions. Many weapons were confiscated."

However, Lynch said, operations in Anbar, Iraq's largest province, also must "work to meet the needs of the people in that province. We've seen great outreach from the national government to the provincial government in al Anbar."

Improving security is a main issue, he said. Officials have decided that Anbar, by the end of the year, should have an 11,330-person strong police force representative of the province. The current police force totals 3,300, Lynch said.

"There's going to be an active recruiting ... and training program to outfit the al Anbar police with folks from al Anbar," he said, adding that two Iraqi army divisions are in the province as well.

Lynch said the people of the province as well as the national government want residents to fill the ranks to bring those divisions up to their desired end-strength.

Anbar's governor and its council also have submitted a list of reconstruction projects they want completed. The Iraqi prime minister has dedicated $75 million to these projects.

"So we're seeing progress in al Anbar, not just along on the security line," but also on the governance line and the economic line,' Lynch said.

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