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Baqubah Still Functioning, Military Commander Reports

American Forces Press Service

BAQUBAH, Iraq, Nov. 30, 2006 – The city of Baqubah is fully operational despite media reports to the contrary, the senior coalition forces commander for Iraq’s Diyala province said here today.

“The erroneous reports are clearly an effort by some individuals to paint a picture of disarray and hysteria to destabilize the province,” Army Col. David W.

Sutherland, commander of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, said.

The city’s government center is open and most of the ministries are present for work, as are the city workers, the health care providers, and ambulances, Sutherland said.

"The mosques are open, and the market in Baqubah has seen a rise in business as fresh fruits and vegetables are arriving and being sold daily,” the colonel said. “We also see construction projects progressing in the area, people going to the markets and walking the streets daily.”

Iraqi police are manning seven critical checkpoints, and the Iraqi army is manning four others, Sutherland said. Another checkpoint is jointly manned by both forces, he added.

Sutherland acknowledged that Iraqi police fled when the Buhriz police station was attacked Nov. 27. He said the station will be rebuilt, fully manned and operational soon, and that the incident doesn’t represent the quality of the police force throughout the city.

"That's not indicative of the situation in all the other stations in the city," Sutherland said. "The IPs are going through challenges with their leadership, logistics, and training. However, day in and day out, they show up to work. Even with the friction created by leadership challenges, the majority of the Iraqi police remain at their post, ready to continue their work. I am very impressed with the loyalty and dedication of the individual policemen."

According to coalition forces reports, about 985 police officers work in Baqubah, and about 9,550 are assigned throughout the province. Additionally, an Emergency Response Force is manned and ready to respond to any crisis, he said.

"I'm not going to paint a pretty picture - insurgent and terrorist organizations are attempting to destabilize the security forces, the government and the population through violence and misinformation," said Sutherland. "However, the government and the security forces are in control."

Coalition soldiers are patrolling around the clock with Iraqi soldiers in Baqubah, Sutherland said.

"We are fully committed to support the government in establishing a safe environment -- one that allows economic growth, infrastructure development, and most importantly, security for the people of Diyala," he said.

(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

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