The number of attacks in Iraq has declined to the lowest level since 2003 despite a recent spate of high-profile bombings, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq said Wednesday. Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin blamed several attacks over the past few days on al-Qaeda in Iraq.
According to the AP, the commander credited part of the decline in violence to an increase in the number of Iraqi security forces on the streets as well as the arrest of a number of key al-Qaeda figures in recent months. "November saw fewer attacks than any month since 2003," Austin said at a news conference. "We have significantly degraded al-Qaida's ability to plan, to resource and to capitalize on ruthless attacks on the Iraqi people."
He also voiced confidence that the transition to increased Iraqi oversight in U.S. military operations would be smooth under a new security pact that was approved last week by the Iraqi parliament.
"What you've seen in the last several days is an attempt by al-Qaeda and others to conduct high-profile attempts that are really aimed at intimidating the civilian population" and drawing media attention, Austin said. "Their intent is to erode the confidence of civilians and Iraqi security forces to create a picture that things are not going in the right direction."
Meanwhile, a bomb attached to a minibus carrying Education Ministry employees exploded on Wednesday, killing at least one civilian and wounding five others in eastern Baghdad, police said.