- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

BAGHDAD (AP) — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said yesterday he may be ready soon to name the two persons who will be charged with carrying out his pledge to take over security for Iraq within 18 months.

The initial focus of the effort will be restoring order for the capital’s more than 5 million residents, who have suffered the most from suicidal killers, roadside bombs and sectarian death squads.

“It is time for those who want to steal the smiles from the Iraqi people and turn its women into mourners to be silenced,” said Deputy Prime Minister Salam Zikam Ali al-Zubaie, the Sunni Arab who is filling the defense post temporarily.

Meanwhile yesterday, 13 persons, including two U.S. soldiers, were reported killed in insurgent violence.

Mr. al-Zubaie did not provide details of Mr. al-Maliki’ s plans to restore security in Baghdad, but President Jalal Talabani said securing the country probably would require a unified unit of soldiers and police.

“We are forming a force to protect Baghdad by the best and trained elements in the Interior and Defense ministries. They will be under one leadership and under the direct supervision of the prime minister,” Mr. Talabani told al-Furat television.

The various Iraqi police and army units now wear a variety of uniforms. Mr. Talabani said the new unit would wear one uniform and “be the only authorized force to travel in Baghdad.” The goal is to eliminate death squads and other armed groups who roam the capital disguised as security forces.

In violence yesterday, the U.S. military reported that a roadside bomb killed two U.S. soldiers when it struck their vehicle in southern Baghdad. Their deaths brought to 2,462 the number of U.S. military members who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The military also said its troops killed three suspected insurgents who were placing roadside bombs near the Abu Ghraib district west of Baghdad.

An explosion in a building in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square killed three persons and wounded 11. Police said they suspected a bomb-making factory had blown up.

In the northern city of Mosul, drive-by shooters killed a city councilman and his driver. A police colonel and arts professor were fatally shot in Baghdad, and a police captain was fatally shot in the northern city of Kirkuk.

Police also said two men working for Iraqna, a cell-phone company, were killed in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad. The bullet-riddled bodies of three men were found in the capital’s southern Dora neighborhood.

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