In the latest in a string of announcements touting successes tied to the U.S. troop “surge,” military officials said Monday that indirect-fire attacks in Iraq dropped to their lowest level in more than 21 months.

According to the figures released by the U.S. military command, the number of mortar and rocket attacks reported in October 2007 throughout the country was half the number reported in October 2006. The overall figure was the lowest since February 2006, just before the bombing of a Shiite shrine unleashed a wave of sectarian violence throughout Iraq.

The military presented the reduction in attacks as an “ongoing trend” after reaching a peak in June 2007.

“It all goes back to the surge,” Lt. Col. James Rikard, the Multi-National Corps — Iraq Field Artillery Headquarters chief, was quoted as saying.

Rikard said the decrease was caused in part by an increase in weapons cache finds, reconciliation efforts among local tribes, and the U.S. military targeting and eliminating insurgent indirect-fire teams.

“The beauty of it is, it’s a multi-causal phenomenon,” Rikard said. “In terms of the indirect fire, we’re really setting the clock back by over three and a half years.”

The announcement comes after military officials said roadside bomb attacks and overall attacks in the country had hit the lowest levels in two years. The number of U.S. troop deaths also has declined since the summer, but 2007 still is the deadliest year for U.S. forces in Iraq. Most of the deaths came in the early spring, when troops expanded their areas of operations during the initial phases of the 30,000-plus troop “surge.”

According to the figures released Monday, indirect-fire attacks had risen from 808 in January to 1,032 in June. Then, over the next four months, the number of attacks declined, with 369 recorded in October.

Those numbers included 53 October attacks in the “Baghdad Security Districts,” which were created as part of the surge.

U.S. officials said external factors, such as the weather, did not appear to have an effect on the number of attacks.

“All this is occurring during beautiful weather,” Rikard was quoted as saying. “We haven’t had that soaking rain that usually comes with late October. So the weather’s not an issue. If the extremists could get out and fire, they would.”

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