- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 29, 2006

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military said yesterday that it is moving about 3,700 troops with fast, light-armored vehicles into Baghdad to try to quell violence in the capital. More American soldiers are expected to follow, military officials said.

The 172nd Stryker Brigade, which had been due to leave Iraq after a year’s assignment, will be sent from the north to Baghdad, said Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

The Alaska-based 172nd uses a new, eight-wheeled armored vehicle and has had several specialized units attached, including military police and Navy and Air Force troops.

“This will place our most experienced unit with our most mobile and agile systems in support of our main effort,” Gen. Casey said. “With the rest of the elements of the plan, this gives us a potentially decisive capability to affect security in Baghdad.”

President Bush said last week that he had decided to bolster American forces in Baghdad to try to stem the tide of Sunni-Shi’ite violence — now seen as a greater threat to Iraq than the Sunni-led insurgency.

The Stryker brigade, currently based in Mosul, is expected to begin moving its headquarters to Baghdad soon.

The U.S. command said yesterday that three U.S. Marines died Thursday in Anbar, the western province that is a focal point of the Sunni-dominated insurgency.

A U.S. statement said they were attached to the Army’s 1st Armored Division, which operates in Ramadi, but gave no further details.

Coalition forces in Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad, made the latest in a series of moves yesterday against radical anti-American Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi Army, attempting to arrest one of its senior leaders.

Seven militia members were injured, but the man the raid had targeted escaped, Iraqi police said.

British troops arrested the Mahdi commander in the southern city of Basra this month.

U.S. and Iraqi forces have staged at least two major raids this month in Sadr City, the Mahdi Army’s Baghdad stronghold.

The U.S. military also announced that a tip from a resident in Latifiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, led them to detain 25 suspects in an attack on a marketplace in Mahmoudiya on July 17 that killed 50 persons.

Sectarian violence has escalated in Iraq in recent months, with Sunni radicals — including members of al Qaeda — and Shi’ite militias staging a string of reprisal killings.

At least 18 persons were killed yesterday in Iraq, including a Sunni cleric from a tribe opposed to al Qaeda in Iraq, who was fatally shot while driving in Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

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