Violence on decline in some Baghdad neighborhoods, U.S. officials say
BAGHDAD — Almost one month into an operation meant to reclaim control of Baghdad after escalating ethnic killings and reprisals, U.S. officials presented data Thursday showing a dramatic drop in violence in several of the city’s besieged neighborhoods.
U.S. and Iraqi officials are “guardedly optimistic” after Operation Together Forward troops have completed operations in sections of Dora, Ghazaliya, Ameriya, Adhamiyah and Mansor, said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the top coalition spokesman in Iraq.
The operation began Aug. 7 and concentrates U.S. and Iraqi troops — drawn from the 1st Armored Division, 4th Infantry Division, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team; the Iraqi army’s 1st and 5th Brigades, 6th Army Division; and the 5th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police Division — in Baghdad.
Using March as a baseline, attacks on civilians peaked in August at 73 percent over March, then dropped to 8 percent above March levels, according to data Caldwell released.
Though the data didn’t include hard numbers, graphics plotting murders, executions and casualties from indirect fire and bombs indicated marked drops in the worst districts, including Kadhamiya on the northwest, Sadr City on the east, Karada in the center and Dora on the south. Rusafa, in central Baghdad just outside the Green Zone, was the only area that appeared to have an increase in all casualties.
Operations are either completed or started in about half of the city, with almost 49,000 buildings cleared, 75 detainees seized, and about 1,100 weapons seized, according to information distributed during a weekly news conference.
After a four-day delay, U.S. and Iraqi officials have rescheduled for Thursday a ceremony to hand the operation of all Iraqi forces, which have been under U.S. control, to the Iraqi military.
The hand-over ceremony, originally scheduled for Sunday, was postponed, then canceled. Caldwell did not say what issues held up the turnover, saying only that Iraqi officials had “technical questions” about the transfer of control.
The transfer will mark the first time since the invasion in March 2003 that the Iraqi prime minister has operation control — through a joint headquarters command structure — of military forces, though Caldwell stressed that Iraqi officials already direct military operations and that six of 10 Iraqi divisions are Iraqi-led.
Caldwell also clarified details Thursday in the arrest of Hamed Jumsa Farif al-Saeedi, or “Abu Humam,” allegedly al-Qaida in Iraq’s second in command. Al-Saeedi was captured June 19, Caldwell said. Iraqi officials announced al-Saeedi’s arrest Sunday, saying it had happened a few days earlier.
Caldwell said the Iraqis were given permission to announce the arrest after it appeared al-Saeedi was of no further value to intelligence officials.