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Nearly 70 large-scale operations have been launched in Baghdad by Iraqi and American forces since kicking off Operation Enforcing the Law on Feb. 14, military officials said Monday.

Some 170 suspected insurgents have been arrested and 63 weapons caches of various sizes have been seized.

The operation is designed to stem the outbursts of sectarian violence that have plagued the Iraqi capital for months. It is also part of President Bush’s “surge,” which involves adding some 17,500 U.S. combat troops to the city.

While U.S. and Iraqi troops have conducted thousands of security patrols as part of the effort, military officials said their effectiveness cannot yet be measured.

“Even with 10 days into the security plan, it’s still too early to talk trends. Still, Iraqi and coalition commanders at all levels remain cautiously optimistic,” Brig. Gen. John F. Campbell, Multi-National Division — Baghdad’s deputy commander for maneuver, was quoted as saying in a news release.

Nonetheless, the release said that “reporting of sectarian murders is at the lowest level in almost a year” and bomb attacks have been reduced by 20 percent.

Still, insurgents have in recent weeks conducted a string of high-profile and high-casualties bombing attacks on such areas as markets and universities.

U.S. military officials also said the Mahdi Army militia — led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — has been largely staying on the sidelines during the operation.

“Security forces see this as a combination of senior militia leadership departing Baghdad during the surge, Sadr’s call for Iraqi unity and a wait-and-see attitude on the part of remaining militia members,” the release read. “It is not clear at this point to what extent the Iraqi population is simply tired of militias.”

Also on Monday, U.S. military officials said they arrested 15 suspected al-Qaida in Iraq members, including an emir — or leader — of the group in Baghdad.


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