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The commander of American and coalition forces in Diyala province on Thursday disputed reports saying the Iraqi city of Baqouba has been “shut down” because of widespread violence this week.

In a statement issued by the U.S. military, Army Col. David W. Sutherland, commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, acknowledged “a recent setback experienced by the Iraqi police” but said the city is “fully operational.”

“The government center is open, and most of the ministries are present for work as are the city workers, the health care providers, and ambulances,” Sutherland was quoted as saying. “The mosques are open, and the market in Baqouba has seen a rise in business as fresh fruits and vegetables are arriving and being sold daily.”

The violence flared on Monday, when insurgents attacked the Buhriz police station, partially destroying it and scattering the policemen assigned to the station. Earlier Thursday, the U.S. military issued a statement saying 28 bodies had been found by Iraqi troops in a mass grave south of the city.

That incident is under investigation.

“I’m not going to paint a pretty picture — insurgent and terrorist organizations are attempting to destabilize the security forces, the government and the population through violence and misinformation,” Sutherland said. “However, the government and the security forces are in control.

“The erroneous reports are clearly an effort by some individuals to paint a picture of disarray and hysteria to destabilize the province,” he was quoted as saying.

According to the U.S. military, there are nearly 1,000 Iraqi police working in Baqouba, which is north of Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi forces also conduct patrols in the city.

Earlier this week, Iraqi troops backed by American aircraft raided a house near the city, killing eight suspected insurgents and two women, military officials have said.


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