- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 5, 2006

BAGHDAD — U.S. soldiers sent to beef up security in Baghdad were seen for the first time on the streets of the capital yesterday as Iraqi police used loudspeakers to reassure people that the Americans were there to protect them.

But at least 21 persons were killed or found dead, most of them in the capital, wracked by bombings and sectarian slayings.

The dead included a Shi’ite couple and their two daughters abducted earlier in the day in Baghdad’s mostly Sunni area of Dora, police said.

With Sunni-Shi’ite killings on the rise, about 3,700 soldiers of the Army’s 172nd Stryker Brigade were brought from northern Iraq to bolster U.S. and Iraqi security forces that have struggled to contain the violence in Baghdad.

Several Stryker armored vehicles took positions in the mostly Sunni district of Ghazaliyah, one of the city’s most dangerous areas. Police used loudspeakers to encourage residents to reopen shops and go about their business normally because the soldiers would protect them.

U.S. commanders hope the presence of heavily armed American troops will intimidate sectarian death squads thought to be involved in many of the killings and will reassure Iraqis that they will be protected by Iraq’s predominantly Shi’ite security forces.

Moving the Stryker brigade to Baghdad, however, meant drawing down, at least temporarily, the U.S. military presence in northern Iraq. The brigade was based in Mosul but had subordinate units scattered over a wide area, including routes used by foreign militants slipping in from Syria.

Fears of trouble in the north rose Friday when a car bomb killed a police colonel in Mosul and triggered a firefight between police and insurgents. Iraq’s Defense Ministry and police announced that 55 suspected insurgents had been captured around Mosul after the violence.

A curfew remained in effect for a second day in the eastern part of Mosul as police searched for insurgents who escaped.

Nevertheless, provincial Gov. Duraid Mohammed Kashmoula said he was pleased with the performance of the Iraqi police, who fled their posts during a November 2004 insurgent uprising but stood their ground Friday.

“The terrorists thought that police were going to run away, but this will not happen again. We will not give them that opportunity,” Mr. Kashmoula said.

The U.S. command said the risk of moving the Stryker brigade was worth taking because of the grave situation in Baghdad, where sectarian tensions are high.

Sectarian bloodshed has soared in the capital since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shi’ite shrine in Samarra.

In addition to the Shi’ite family slain in Baghdad, police found 13 bodies yesterday — four floating in the Tigris River 25 miles south of the capital and the rest in various neighborhoods of the city. All had been shot, and most showed signs of torture, police said.

Two mortar shells landed on a house in southern Baghdad late yesterday, killing one person and injuring two, police said, and two low-ranking members of Saddam Hussein’s former regime were fatally shot in separate incidents yesterday.

In Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, two bombs exploded within minutes yesterday. The first bomb destroyed a grocery store, and the second targeted police and rescuers who rushed to the scene. Eight persons were wounded, police said.

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