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ARLINGTON, Va. — Roadside bomb attacks in northern Iraq are down but still higher than they are in the rest of the country, said the commander of Multi-National Division–North on Monday.

“In June, there were, I’m thinking off the top of my head, there were, 1,830 IEDs placed in the MND-North area; in the October time frame, there were about 900,” said Army Maj. Gen. Mark. P. Hertling, who is also commander of the 1st Armored Division.

Hertling also said his forces have encountered about 466 roadside bombs between Nov. 1 and Nov. 19, compared with 520 such bombs during the same period last month.

“Having said that, 466 IEDs in an area the size of Pennsylvania is still about 466 too many, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Hertling attributed the drop in violence across Iraq to Iraqis getting sick and tired of people using their country as a “traumatic playground” and helping coalition troops find weapon caches used to make roadside bombs.

Since the Nov. 5 launch of Operation Iron Hammer, coalition troops have uncovered about 79 weapons caches in the region, of which about 20 percent were found due to tips from local Iraqis, he said.

While roadside bomb attacks continue to make up the majority of attacks against U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces, the enemy is starting to turn to drive-by shootings as more weapons caches are found, Hertling said.

Also Monday, Hertling was asked what the difference is between Iraqis working with coalition forces, known as “Concerned Local Citizens,” and militias.

He explained that the Concerned Local Citizens can best be described as an “armed neighborhood watch.”

They stay in their neighborhoods and work with Iraqi security forces to uphold the law, Hertling said. Unlike militias, they also do not roam around the country getting into gang wars, he said.

“It’s not a Bloods and Crips situation; it’s not a Sharks and Jets situation, that’s what we’re trying to avoid,” Hertling said.

However, Hertling conceded that in one incident, Concerned Local Citizens left Baghdad to attack a “well-known al-Qaida safe house” in his area of operations.

“I’ll say that it is still under investigation as to exactly what happened; if there was miscommunication or if there was in fact collusion, but I’d rather not comment on the actual investigation itself,” he said.

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