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Security Efforts Stepped Up for Iraqi Referendum

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2005 – With the Iraq constitutional referendum just days away, Iraqi security and coalition forces are taking steps to establish safe and secure conditions so all citizens can participate in the democratic process, a senior military official told reporters in Baghdad Oct. 12.

The official, speaking on background, assured Iraqis they "can be confident in the abilities of the more than 200,000 Iraqi security forces to protect them" when they go to the polls Oct. 15.

Despite the spike in violence predicted for the days leading up to the referendum, violence is actually down compared to last month, the official reported, thanks to escalated efforts to establish secure conditions for the vote.

Operation Unity, which began Sept. 29 and continues in Baghdad, is focused directly on that effort, the official said. More than 20,000 troops from Iraq's Ministry of Interior and six brigades from the Ministry of Defense are participating, as well as coalition forces.

Since the operation began, these troops have conducted more than 70 raids, performed 420 cordon-and-search operations, manned 156 checkpoints and detained more than 300 suspected insurgents, the official said.

Their actions, the official reported, have resulted in a 32 percent decrease in car-bomb explosions per day, a 38 percent increase in roadside bombs found and a 49 percent drop in rocket attacks, compared to last month.

But even with these successes, the official said it's clear that terrorists haven't given up their hopes of interfering with the democratic process and predicted an upsurge in violence in the days ahead.

"We know that the anti-Iraqi forces, the enemy, will do all that it can to create fear and intimidation," he said. "But we have taken all precautions and we believe that our procedures will provide a safe and secure environment."

The referendum marks "another important milestone" in Iraq, the official said, building toward its goals of maintaining peace with its neighbors, respecting the human rights of all its citizens and providing a security force that can maintain domestic order while denying terrorists a safe haven.

And just like as terrorists failed to stop previous advances in Iraq's political progress, they'll fail again, the official said.

"They tried and failed to stop the election in January. They tried and failed to stop the National Assembly from forming. They tried and failed to stop the government from forming," he said.

"And they will try and they will fail to stop the referendum from taking place."

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