Iraqi forces take control of second province
Iraqi forces formally took over security in a southern province from Italian soldiers on Thursday, making Dhi Qar the second of Iraq's 18 provinces to come under local control.
At a ceremony in the provincial capital, Nasiriyah, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki thanked Italian Defense Minister Arturo Parisi for his country's help. Italy has nearly 1,600 soldiers in the country, mostly in Nasiriyah, and that force is expected to be withdrawn by year's end.
"The Italian contingent is going back. The mission is accomplished — the security of the province is in your hands," Parisi said, according to the AP.
British troops handed over control of southern Muthana province to Iraqis in July.
Meanwhile, the number of Iraqi civilians killed in July and August amounted to 6,599, the United Nations said Wednesday.
The report from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq's Human Rights office highlighted violent civilian deaths in July reached an unprecedented high of 3,590, an average of more than 100 a day. The August toll was 3,009, the report said.
For the previous period, the U.N. had reported just under 6,000 deaths - 2,669 in May and 3,149 in June.