Bombings drop as security tightens in Abu Ghraib
January 23, 2009
ABU GHRAIB, Iraq — The number of house bombings, once a major threat to stability here, has dropped dramatically since October, the U.S. Army said.
The Abu Ghraib district suffered 53 of the bombings over a three-month period beginning last July. Since Nov. 9, no homes have been bombed, according to the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division.
The attacks largely targeted Shiite residents returning to homes abandoned during heavy fighting and ignited other violence in the district, which remains one of the most dangerous in Iraq despite vast improvements.
The decline in bombings is due to a pause in the return of refugees and an increased Iraqi security presence as members of the Sunni Awakening transferred into the army and local police, according to Lt. Col. Mario Diaz, commander of the battalion.
As violence subsided in 2008, families returned to Abu Ghraib in large numbers without government oversight, Diaz said.
The returns were often accompanied with pro-Shiite celebrations that forced Sunnis from properties. Insurgents seized on the friction and wired the homes with explosives, killing Shiites and pressing on the sectarian rift, he said.
"Once the Iraqi government stopped the [returning refugees], it stopped," said Maj. Benjamin Eiser, of the Stryker battalion.
The Iraqi government has since created a system to resettle displaced residents that gives Sunni squatters about 10 days’ notice to vacate homes.
Resettlement resumed on Jan. 1 and so far, 41 families have moved back into homes without incident, Eiser said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi authorities were beefed up with additional personnel and have clamped down on central Abu Ghraib, where fighting has been most intense, said Capt. Ibrahim, the 3rd Company commander with the Iraqi army’s 3rd Battalion, 24th Brigade, 6th Division.
"The Iraqi army is in the area now," said the captain, who like many Iraqi forces asked that his full name not be used. "There are many checkpoints on the Abu Ghraib highway."
Tight new security along roads and around trouble areas, including an apartment complex known to harbor foreign fighters, has choked off the house bombings and other violence in the area since October, said 1st Lt. Anthony Sgroi, who leads patrols of Abu Ghraib with Company B of the Stryker battalion.
"Since then, we haven’t seen a thing happen here," he said.