By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
March 16, 2007 – Tribal leaders are cooperating with U.S. and Iraqi security forces to reduce terrorist-staged violence in Diyala province, senior U.S. and Iraqi military officials said today. U.S. and Iraqi officials have urged prominent sheikhs in Diyala province "to work with their people to become part of the security process and part of the political process (to) drive a wedge (between) the terrorists and any auxiliary support or direct support that they may receive from the people," Army Col. David W. Sutherland, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, said from his headquarters in Baqubah during a teleconference with reporters.
Baqubah is the capital city of Diyala and is located about 125 miles northeast of Baghdad.
The sheikhs were attentive during recent discussions, said Maj. Gen. Shakir Halail Husain, commander of the 5th Iraqi Army Division, and Sutherland's partner.
"We explained to them that the coalition forces and the Iraqi security forces are working to serve them, and the government of Diyala is working to provide food and fuel for them," the Iraqi general commented through an interpreter at the news conference.
Those talks are paying off. Citizens in Muqdadiyah, Baqubah and Balad Ruz have provided tips that have resulted in the arrest of several terrorists, the Iraqi general said.
"Yesterday, we arrested 17 of them," he said, "and we killed six terrorists in the same area."
Sectarian violence in Diyala province, as measured by the number of murders and kidnappings, has decreased 70 percent in the period between July 2006 and February, Sutherland noted. However, attacks on U.S. and Iraqi security forces in the province have gone up, the colonel said.
This situation indicates "the terrorists are trying to disrupt the operations by coalition forces working with the Iraqi security forces," Sutherland said.
Meanwhile, al Qaeda in Iraq has changed its name to the Islamic State of Iraq in order to posture as an Iraqi resistance group, the colonel said. However, "this is the same foreign-led group dedicated to death and destruction," he pointed out.
Sutherland said his five-battalion force was recently reinforced by the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, which is equipped with Stryker vehicles. American soldiers in Diyala province work alongside Iraqi 5th Division-troops and 10,000 Iraqi police, he said.
And, recent U.S.-Iraqi anti-terrorist operations conducted in Balad Ruz, Katoon and Muqdadyidah have been successful, the Iraqi general noted.
"We have scored big success in these areas," he said. "We have improved security in Diyala province."
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