Iraq PM: Violence in Baghdad area down by 75%
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told lawmakers Monday that Iraqi forces were not prepared to take over security from the U.S. military across the country. "There have been tangible improvements in security in the recent period in Baghdad and the provinces but it is not enough," he told parliament.
"Despite the security improvement, we still need more efforts and time in order for our armed forces to be able to take over security in all Iraqi provinces from the multinational forces that helped us in a great way in fighting terrorism and outlaws."
Al-Maliki said that violence had declined 75 percent in the Baghdad area since the U.S. began pouring in additional troops at the outset of the current year. "The key to reconstruction, economic development and improving peoples' standard of living is security," he said, according to the AP.
Al-Maliki was called before parliament to give his own assessment of the security situation in Iraq. Though his government has been widely criticized for failing to bridge sectarian divides, al-Maliki insisted that progress had been made.
"We have achieved success in preventing Iraq from going into sectarian war and I am fully confident that national reconciliation is our only way that takes Iraq into safety," al-Maliki said.
Also on Monday, U.S. and Iraqi forces backed by helicopters killed three civilians in the Shiite slum of Sadr City in a pre-dawn raid on the home of a suspected militia leader, police and residents said. Ground forces searched four houses but failed to find the suspect, U.S. spokesman Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl said. He identified the suspect only as a "a criminal militia special group commander," a term associated with splinter factions of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.
Meanwhile, a bomb went off around noon near the Shiite Buratha mosque in northern Baghdad, killing two civilians and injuring six others, police said.
The U.S. command also declared that a U.S. soldier, whose patrol in the Kirkuk area was hit with rockets on Sunday, had died from injuries sustained in the attack.