By Army Sgt. Sara Moore
American Forces Press Service
April 14, 2008 - Iraqi security forces are continuing to lead operations against insurgents in Basra and Baghdad and have made significant progress toward establishing security, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said yesterday. Speaking to reporters in Iraq, Navy Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, detailed recent operations, including those in the southern city of Basra, where Iraqi and coalition forces have been conducting increased operations since March.
"In Basra this week, Iraqi security forces continued operations against illegally armed gangs, intimidation and extortion groups, and other criminals," Driscoll said. "Although there still is much work to be done, citizens in Basra are beginning to report a return to normal life."
Since operations began in Basra in late March, Iraqi security forces have arrested more than 430 criminals, including 28 death-row convicts who had been at large, Driscoll said. He said he spoke with an official from the Iraqi Interior Ministry overseeing security operations in Basra who indicated that the situation in the city has improved and stability is being restored. In part, the progress is due to a growing number of tips from local citizens, which are allowing security forces to conduct targeted raids on suspected criminal hideouts, Driscoll said.
"Coalition forces continue to provide operational advisors, surveillance information, and air-strike support for operations in Basra," Driscoll said. "But the progress thus far in Basra is largely due to the resolve and bravery of the Iraqi ground forces, the efficiency of the Iraqi air force in maintaining supply and support, and the operational direction of Iraqi civilian and military leadership."
In Baghdad, Iraqi security forces have redoubled their efforts against insurgents in recent days in certain parts of the city, including Sadr City, Driscoll said. Coalition forces continue to support the Iraqi forces in these operations, which focus on areas of the city that have suffered under criminals, he said.
"Without improved security, it is difficult to provide essential services so that people can live their lives peacefully and freely," he said, adding that the Iraqi government is committed to following security with the delivery of essential services such as health, electricity, water, and sewage and trash disposal.
"The people of Iraq deserve an opportunity to live without fear and intimidation brought upon them by criminals and thugs," Driscoll said. "They also deserve reliable public services, employment opportunities, and hope for a better life."
Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the government of Iraq, joined Driscoll at the news conference and highlighted political progress made by the government recently. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today is starting a visit to the European Union, where he will meet with several leaders with an aim of enhancing Iraq's political and economic situation, Dabbagh said. The prime minister also will conduct talks about gas and energy, and cooperation between Iraq and the European Union, he said.
Iraq's Council of Ministers decided yesterday to approve the provincial elections bill, and the bill will now move forward to the Council of Representatives, Dabbagh said. If the bill is passed, elections could be held at the beginning of October, he said.