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Iraq Operation Offers Alternative to Former Enemy Fighters

American Forces Press Service

HAWIJAH, Iraq, May 21, 2008 – Sheiks, villagers and coalition troops attended a May 18 reconciliation meeting at Forward Operating Base McHenry.

The sixth meeting under Operation Restore Peace afforded a pathway toward reconciliation to combatants who have been linked to attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces.

The program, which citizens call “Musalaha,” has been credited -- along with the Sons of Iraq program, in which local people aid security efforts -- with more than a 90 percent decrease in violent attacks against both forces and civilians in the Hawijah district, about 60 miles southwest of Kirkuk in Iraq’s Tamim province.

Since January, more than 200 citizens in the region have reconciled during this operation.

"We came today of our own free will," said Sheik Atta Muhammad Hussein of the Obedi tribe in the district of Riyadh. "I tell my children and villagers that we need to cooperate with our government and our security forces. That is the only way our lives will improve and that Iraq will prosper as a country."

People came from as far as the village of Quodas, about 20 miles northeast of Hawijah, to as close as Riyadh, just five miles up the road. Khalif Khudi Muhammid of the Abassi tribe heard of the meeting from a citizen in a neighboring village.

"He told me that I needed to go to Musahala here," Muhammid said. "This person told me I had a choice."

More Iraqis here are becoming motivated to join the reconciliation program. The information obtained in the past two weeks has led to the detention of 13 known criminals, officials said.

(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

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Multinational Corps Iraq
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