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Iraqis in the town of Baqubah planned mostly quiet family celebrations to mark Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Iraqis in the town of Baqubah planned mostly quiet family celebrations to mark Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. (Andrew Tilghman / S&S)

BAQOUBA, Iraq — Retired Iraqi Army Col. Mohamed Ali left work Thursday with plans to join family and friends for a feast that would include a freshly slaughtered cow in his small village outside the city of Baqouba.

In addition to fasting every day for a month, Ali, a shift commander at the provincial Joint Communications Center, also has spent the past several weeks coordinating security for the tense Oct. 15 referendum vote as well as the spike in violence throughout the holy month.

“We are happy that we are in control of the situation,” Ali, 54, said shortly before leaving his desk at the nerve center for Iraqi security forces for Diyala Province, where flat-screen TVs, laptop computers, cell phones and radios monitor the entire province that stretches from suburban Baghdad to the Iranian border.

Ali was one of many Iraqis and American soldiers who began to breathe a sigh of relief Thursday after a long holiday period of intense political activity and scattered violence came to a close with the feast of Eid-Al-Fitr, the celebration that ends the month- long fast of Ramadan.

Security forces here saw an uptick in violence, but not the type of catastrophic attacks many had feared.

For example, insurgents mounted 11 attacks on police stations in October, the highest figure all year. Attacks on police stations in the province have risen steadily this year, from three in June to 10 in September, according to data provided by JCC officials.

The number of people killed in attacks, however, dropped during October, JCC data showed. An estimated 64 people — including U.S. soldiers, Iraqi security forces and civilians — were killed by insurgent attacks in October, down from the peak of 100 in August, JCC data showed.

“We figured there would be some violence, but you never know how much. I think it went about as well as can be expected,” said Maj. Scott Quagliata, 38, the battalion executive officer for the task force assigned to oversee the city of Baqouba.

The marketplaces in Baqouba bustled Thursday afternoon, as the mixture of Sunnis and Shiites prepared for the holiday weekend.

Some residents, however, thought less about the incremental improvements during recent months and instead recalled the Eid-Al-Fitr feasts of years past, when there were no insurgents and streets were safe to walk at night.

“The children here cannot go out past 9 o’clock at night,” said Mohanad Ahmmad Abas, a 26-year-old plumber who said he planned to spend a quiet evening Thursday with his family, reading the Koran and watching television.

“Before the war, it was safe. Now we have more attacks, more explosions, more people dying,” he said. “We have Iraqi police, we have Iraqi army, and we have American soldiers, but that doesn’t stop the sons of bitches.”

On many bases throughout Iraq, soldiers continued on with business as usual, largely unaffected by the Muslim holiday.

“For the Iraqis, this is a big holiday, but for us, its just another day,” Quagliata said.

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