- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2006


BAGHDAD — Iraqis living in Baghdad’s most violent neighborhoods have been able to leave their homes safely for the first time in months, as American foot patrols moved in as part of a beefed-up security plan.

An additional 3,700 U.S. troops deployed in the capital in the past two days to join the roughly 56,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops already in the city.

The deployment is part of a six-week security operation intended to stop sectarian killings.

“Everybody knows that if Americans are there, then it is safe,” said one young man who had just brought his pregnant wife home from the hospital.

The militias in his southern Baghdad neighborhood left the moment the Americans arrived on Monday, he said.

“There were no clashes with the militias because of the heavy power the Americans have,” he said, asking that his name not be used. “They just come in and stay in place and people start going out and feeling free.”

In the Sunni neighborhood of Ghazaliya in western Baghdad where insurgents had threatened residents with death if they defied them, shops that had been shuttered for months started to open and the men began to venture outside.

One former military officer, Hassam Abdul Emir, said his family and others had been surviving on government-supplied food rations that they were able to get two months ago.

He said that there had been almost no electricity or water in that time because government workers were too frightened to enter the area.

“Two days ago the Americans and Iraqi army showed up on the streets. At first we thought they were attacking — but by 10 a.m. they were settled and they stayed for more than three hours,” he said yesterday.

“We saw them stay, walking around, so we felt we could go out. The Iraqi army told us we could go out, open our shops, because they were staying until they got rid of all the insurgents,” Mr. Abdul Emir said.

The ex-officer said the shops sprung open and he quickly went out and bought 30 pounds of tomatoes, 20 pounds of cucumbers, 20 pounds of eggplant and meat.

President Bush announced the increase in U.S. forces in Baghdad after a joint U.S.-Iraqi military operation named “Forward Together,” begun in mid-June, failed to stop the daily sectarian, insurgent and gang killings in the capital.

Nearly 6,000 civilians died in Iraq in May and June, according to the United Nations, and 14,338 have been killed since January.

Lt. Gen. Nasier Abadi, the deputy commander of Iraq’s Joint Force, said the military had learned from past mistakes when it tried to target all of Baghdad, a city of 6.5 million, not just specific areas.

“The plan was to isolate these areas one by one, get them secure and move on,” said Gen. Abadi, speaking at the United States Institute of Peace Friday. “This will take time. We have cleared three to four areas.”

Sunni Mohammed Omar, who acknowledged that he hated the American soldiers accused of raping a teenage Iraqi girl, said he was happy the U.S. troops had come to the neighborhood.

“We thought we were going to die,” he said. “The Americans came and it brought us hope. The Americans are much more fair that the Iraqis.”

President Jalal Talabani predicted yesterday that Iraqi troops will assume security duties for the whole country by the end of the year, the Associated Press reported.

Mr. Talabani’s optimistic forecast came during a relative lull in the bloodshed wracking Iraq.

Police said nine persons were slain yesterday, a day after a wave of bombings and shootings killed more than 70.

• The writer’s name has been withheld for security reasons. Sharon Behn contributed to this report from Washington.

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