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Soldiers from Battery G, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, use their Humvee as cover while investigating the site of a possible insurgent checkpoint near Tikrit.

Soldiers from Battery G, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, use their Humvee as cover while investigating the site of a possible insurgent checkpoint near Tikrit. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

Soldiers from Battery G, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, use their Humvee as cover while investigating the site of a possible insurgent checkpoint near Tikrit.

Soldiers from Battery G, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, use their Humvee as cover while investigating the site of a possible insurgent checkpoint near Tikrit. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

Soldiers from Battery G, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, investigate the site of a possible insurgent checkpoint near Tikrit.

Soldiers from Battery G, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, investigate the site of a possible insurgent checkpoint near Tikrit. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

Spc. Sameul Bassila, a 21-year-old from Lansing, Mich., mans the Humvee gunner position on a quick-reaction force mission Saturday outside of Tikrit.

Spc. Sameul Bassila, a 21-year-old from Lansing, Mich., mans the Humvee gunner position on a quick-reaction force mission Saturday outside of Tikrit. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

Sgt. Ian Pearson, 24, of Huntsville, Ala., uses his sniper rifle scope to check out the site of a possible insurgent checkpoint on Saturday outside of Tikrit.

Sgt. Ian Pearson, 24, of Huntsville, Ala., uses his sniper rifle scope to check out the site of a possible insurgent checkpoint on Saturday outside of Tikrit. (Joseph Giordono / S&S)

TIKRIT, Iraq — A feared surge in violence following the announcement of Iraq’s election results largely failed to materialize this weekend, with American and Iraqi troops fanning out on security missions throughout the country and setting a security ring around Baghdad.

At least 11 people were killed north of Baghdad in roadside bomb blasts, shootings and rocket-propelled grenade attacks, but U.S. Brig. Gen. Don Alston said insurgent attacks nationwide fell 40 percent last week over the previous week. Attacks in Baghdad fell 80 percent for the same period, he told reporters.

In Saddam Hussein’s ancestral home of Tikrit, U.S. forces of the 101st Airborne Division reported few incidents of violence. Just south of the city, soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment patrolled both main roads and dessert trails, also taking time to visit scheduled town council meetings.

On Saturday morning, a quick-reaction force from the battalion was called out to investigate a possible checkpoint run by insurgents posing as Iraqi army soldiers. As the U.S. troops geared up and prepared to leave Forward Operating Base Remagen, they were briefed that up to 15 armed men in Iraqi army uniforms were at the site. The soldiers set a plan of attack and sped into the desert, but found little in the area except a crew turning sand into bricks.

By afternoon, a daylong sandstorm had strengthened and left most roads and towns in this Sunni-dominated area quiet.

Known as the “Red Knight Rakkasans,” the 3rd Battalion, like many other units in Iraq, has reconstituted from its role as artillery to perform many of the functions of infantry units. Among their chief tasks is training the Iraqi army and police, and that effort saw the only reported casualty of the weekend. An Iraqi major in one of the local units was assassinated by unknown gunmen, soldiers said Saturday. Tikrit police officials told the Reuters news agency that the major was killed, along with his son and their driver, on his way to his office in Tikrit.

U.S. and Iraqi officials had placed a 48-hour security lockdown on three predominantly Sunni-provinces and Baghdad to head off attacks after the election announcement. On Friday, Iraqi election officials said a coalition of Shiite parties had fallen 10 seats short of an outright majority in December’s parliamentary elections, capturing 128 of 275 seats. The Kurdish coalition also fared as well as expected, winning 53 seats, with the largest Sunni party winning 44 seats. A secular coalition led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi won 25 seats, election officials said.

The Sunni parties, which largely boycotted earlier elections, have much more representation than after the first vote in January. Still, as members of the former ruling party and the core of the insurgency entering its third year, the Sunnis were expected to react violently to the election results. By best estimates, Sunnis make up around 20 percent of the Iraqi population, with Kurds making up an additional 15 to 20 percent.

In a briefing fed by satellite to Pentagon reporters last week, 101st commander Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Turner II said he hoped political progress would help turn Sunni groups away from the insurgency.

“If the Sunnis are enfranchised and begin participating ... as we think they are beginning to do, I would suspect it would be the foreign fighters that you may find still resident here, other jihadists, religious extremist groups,” he said, according to a transcript of the session.

Turner commands a huge swath of central and northern Iraq, stretching from the Kurdish areas down an area just north of Baghdad.


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