By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
March 22, 2007 – Anti-insurgent operations conducted by U.S. and Iraqi security forces as part of Operation Law and Order and recent meetings with area tribal leaders have combined to reduce the violence in and around southern Baghdad, senior U.S. and Iraqi military and civic officials said in Baghdad yesterday. Iraqi Army troops have conducted about a third of the anti-terrorist operations in southern Baghdad since Operation Law and Order commenced in mid-February, Army Col. Michael Kershaw, commander of the U.S. 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, told reporters at a Baghdad news conference.
"Both coalition and Iraqi forces have continued to conduct security operations and these operations have been highlighted by a number of recent successes," Kershaw said. Success achieved against terrorists who'd once operated in the area, he noted, has enabled Iraqi police to move into areas where they didn't operate before.
Additionally, U.S. and Iraqi military leaders have attended meetings with regional sheikhs, the U.S. officer noted, which in concert with reconstruction efforts involving schools, roads and sewage projects, have also assisted in reducing the violence.
"There is (a) big reduction of violence in southern Baghdad because of the success of the military operations," concurred Col. Ali Jassem, commander of the 4th Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Army Division. Southern Baghdad was a hotbed of insurgent activity just two years ago, he noted.
However, Iraqi soldiers stationed in southern Baghdad have "conducted and supervised many attacks against the terrorists, which led to the capture of many of them," Jassem said. Those operations, the Iraqi colonel added, also resulted in the seizure of many large enemy weapons caches containing rockets, mortar rounds, medium and light weapons and explosives.
Also, Iraqi troops supported by U.S. forces "secured the area" without incident during a recent religious pilgrimage, Jassem said, that had passed through southern Baghdad and the nearby town of Mahmudiyah.
"Mahmudiyah is a very important site," Mouayed Fathel al-Ameri, the town's mayor, said at the news conference, because it is the gateway into Baghdad from the south. Al Qaeda terrorists once operated in the area south of Baghdad, he noted.
Today, "the security forces (have) struck down the al Qaeda terrorists in this area and we achieved good results, the mayor said.
The Iraqi colonel noted that Operation Law and Order, called Fardh al-Qanoon in Arabic, is putting the squeeze on terrorists who'd previously operated in and around Iraq's capital city.
"Now, the pressure of Fardh al-Qanoon pushed the terrorists to flee away from Baghdad, but the security forces outside Baghdad conducted good operations, which pressurized the terrorists," Jassem said.
Three months ago, terrorist-conducted mortar attacks numbered between 400 and 500 monthly, Jassem said. Today, he said, such attacks number around 20 each month.
The mayor of Mahmudiyah said talks with local tribal leaders have also contributed to the reduction of violence. The sheikhs were urged to pitch in and help "identify the bad guys who try to destroy Iraq," the mayor pointed out.
"We need the unity and support of all the tribes," the mayor emphasized. "With the support of the tribes, we can achieve good results."
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