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Coalition Recommends Ninewah Province for Provincial Control

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2007 – Notwithstanding a March 27 terrorist attack that killed and injured scores of Iraqis in Tal Afar, Iraq, coalition officials have recommended that Ninewah province be transferred to Iraqi control next month, a top coalition officer in the province said today.

Army Brig. Gen. John Bednarak, deputy commander of Multinational Division North, told reporters via satellite that the Tal Afar tragedy must be balanced with the progress that has taken place in the province as a whole.

Tal Afar is due west of the provincial capital of Mosul on one of the main roads into Syria.

“The enemy is trying to reach out and drive a wedge between the people and the government and security forces,” Bednarek said. “This adversary is desperate.”

Tal Afar has been relatively calm, he said, and the shocking attack was all the more disturbing because of that.

“But the government hung tough after the attack,” the general said. The Tal Afar mayor, the Ninewah provincial police chief and governor and the commanders of the Iraqi Army divisions stood with the local sheikhs to calm the people, he said.

Following the attack, the coalition stood by ready to offer aid. It was not needed, Bednarek said. City and provincial officials were able to handle the casualties and clean up the damage without outside aid.

The government of Iraq has ordered a full investigation into reports of alleged revenge killings by off-duty Shiia police officers of Sunni Iraqis in the attack’s aftermath. News reports said 18 Iraqi police have been arrested in connection with the murders. Bednarek said the Iraqi Interior and Justice ministries are working together and will try those responsible for the atrocities.

The four Iraqi army divisions in Multinational Division North are leading operations, with three of the four having transitioned to Iraqi Ground Force Command. This means the divisions conduct independent operations, Bednarek said.

He said the police forces in the region are experiencing good results in recruiting, retention and training, and that the Army and police are working well with the border police manning checkpoints on the borders with Syria and Iran. Some 132,000 Iraqi security forces are involved in the Multinational Division North area, which stretches from Diyala province northward, he said.

The general said work continues on improving the Iraqi forces’ professionalism and instilling loyalty to the elected government and not militias, Bednarek said.

“One Iraq is the vision of the government,” he said.

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