TIKRIT, Iraq, Oct. 17, 2006 – U.S. soldiers are helping Iraqi security forces here to quell a surge in sectarian violence, military officials reported today. Throughout the past 96 hours, officials here said, more than 60 Iraqis were killed as a result of sectarian violence in Balad, just north of Baghdad. In the past 48 hours, officials said, the city has been hit with five indirect-fire attacks, killing six civilians and wounding 10.
"We continue to conduct our normal patrols in the city and provide support for Iraqi security forces as they lead operations in stopping the sectarian violence in Balad," said Army Lt. Col. Jeffery Martindale, commander of 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. "We are also providing counter-fire support against terrorists conducting indirect-fire attacks against innocent civilians in Balad."
The violence began Oct. 13, when 19 Shiia Muslims were kidnapped and killed Dulyiyah, east of Balad. The following day, more than 38 Sunni Muslims were killed, apparently in retaliation.
As the sectarian violence escalated, officials said, the Salah ad Din provincial government established a 48-hour vehicular curfew beginning at 5 p.m. Oct. 14. Iraqi security forces enforced the curfew by maintaining a presence throughout the city and establishing checkpoints to halt insurgents and militias from entering the city.
Coalition forces helped with the ISF operations at the request of the Iraqi civic and military leaders, and detained two Iraqi police officers allegedly involved in the killing of 19 the Shiia Muslims from Duluiyah, Martindale said.
"By coordinating all of our efforts, we have seen a marked decrease in violence in the past 24 hours," Martindale added.