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Mideast edition, Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Despite recent assassinations targeting Iraqi tribal leaders who have agreed to work with the U.S. military, some sheiks are still working with U.S. troops, military officials said Monday.

Over the past several days in the Abu Ghraib district of Baghdad, local sheiks, Iraqi security forces and American troops have recruited some 1,900 new police officers from the tribes’ ranks.

And according to military officials, many of those recruited were formerly people who might have fought against U.S. and Iraqi government troops.

“A lot of these people have not been supporting us over the past four years,” Capt. Lawrence Obst, commander of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, was quoted as saying in a news release. “Just now, we have been able to sit down and talk with the local leaders on why we are here. At the same time, they are realizing what a bad influence al-Qaida has been on the area.”

Part of a new U.S. strategy has been to seek alliances with tribal leaders who believe insurgents have gone too far in their bombing, kidnapping and murder campaigns.

In recent months, several tribal groups — citing “barbaric” tactics by insurgents — have openly battled Islamist insurgents in several cities.

But al-Qaida and other groups have struck back. Last week, a suicide bomber targeted a meeting of sheiks in a downtown Baghdad hotel, killing at least six tribal leaders who were working with U.S. troops.

This week’s recruiting drive in Baghdad came after a call from local sheiks for “reconciliation” with Iraqi and American troops, military officials said.


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