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Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Baghdad curfew cut as security improves

April 4, 2007

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U.S. deaths

A Fort Riley soldier, Army Spc. Brian E. Ritzberg, 24, New York City, died Monday in Balad of wounds from an explosion in Kirkuk. He was assigned to the 977th Military Police Company, 97th Military Police Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley.As of Tuesday, at least 3,257 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

— Citing improved security in the capital, the Iraqi government said Tuesday it was shortening the Baghdad curfew by two hours and would allow citizens to be on the streets until 10 p.m.

The easing of the ban on movement around the city coincided with a one-day sharp drop in the number of people known to have been killed in sectarian violence nationwide. According to police and morgue reports, 18 people were killed or found dead Tuesday.

Violence in the capital has declined since the latest U.S.-Iraqi joint security operation began on Feb. 14, though there have been devastating attacks.

But bloodshed has increased elsewhere in Iraq after insurgents and militiamen moved operations out of the capital in advance of the security crackdown. Last week more than 600 people were killed nationwide in sectarian attacks, mainly truck and suicide bombings thought to be the work of Sunni insurgents or al-Qaida in Iraq.

Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the spokesman for the Baghdad security operation, said the curfew had been shortened in the capital "because the security situation has improved and people needed more time to go shopping."

Since the start of the security operation, the military had enforced an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. ban. Before that, the curfew had been 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Shiite lawmakers, meanwhile, said the government decision that likely will hand the oil-rich city of Kirkuk to Kurdish control was forced on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki when Kurds threatened to walk out of his ruling coalition and bring down the government.

The threat and al-Maliki's capitulation dramatically outlined the prime minister's tenuous hold on power and further emphasized the possibility, some say the likelihood, that Iraq could break into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni regions with little or no central government control.

"The Kurdish coalition exerted enormous pressure on us. One of them was a threat by Kurdish lawmakers to boycott parliament and by ministers to quit the government," said Haidar al-Abbadi, a member of al-Maliki's Dawa party. He described the Kurdish pressures as "blackmail."

The easing of the ban on movement around the city coincided with a one-day sharp drop in the number of people known to have been killed in sectarian violence nationwide. According to police and morgue reports, 18 people were killed or found dead Tuesday.

Violence in the capital has declined since the latest U.S.-Iraqi joint security operation began on Feb. 14, though there have been devastating attacks.

But bloodshed has increased elsewhere in Iraq after insurgents and militiamen moved operations out of the capital in advance of the security crackdown. Last week more than 600 people were killed nationwide in sectarian attacks, mainly truck and suicide bombings thought to be the work of Sunni insurgents or al-Qaida in Iraq.

Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the spokesman for the Baghdad security operation, said the curfew had been shortened in the capital "because the security situation has improved and people needed more time to go shopping."

Since the start of the security operation, the military had enforced an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. ban. Before that, the curfew had been 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Shiite lawmakers, meanwhile, said the government decision that likely will hand the oil-rich city of Kirkuk to Kurdish control was forced on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki when Kurds threatened to walk out of his ruling coalition and bring down the government.

The threat and al-Maliki's capitulation dramatically outlined the prime minister's tenuous hold on power and further emphasized the possibility, some say the likelihood, that Iraq could break into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni regions with little or no central government control.

"The Kurdish coalition exerted enormous pressure on us. One of them was a threat by Kurdish lawmakers to boycott parliament and by ministers to quit the government," said Haidar al-Abbadi, a member of al-Maliki's Dawa party. He described the Kurdish pressures as "blackmail."

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