- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2007

4:04 p.m.

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Shi’ite prime minister, hoping to persuade Iraqis outside the capital that the government is working to tame rising violence everywhere, traveled to the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Ramadi today and met with tribal leaders and the provincial governor.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s visit came a day after he warned that extremists would flee to other parts of the country during a security crackdown in Baghdad and promised government help in fighting them.

Surrounded by heavily armed bodyguards, Mr. al-Maliki also visited Iraqi security forces after he was flown to the U.S. base on the western outskirts of Ramadi, the provincial capital of the volatile Anbar province, which stretches west from Baghdad to the borders with Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

He discussed security issues and the need to restore infrastructure in the battered city during the meeting with Gov. Maamoun Sami Rashid al-Alwani, according to Iraqi state television.

The U.S. military is pressing a campaign to encourage Iraq’s Sunnis — those involved in or sympathetic to the insurgency — to stop attacks and break with al Qaeda-in-Iraq fighters who have taken deep root in Anbar province.

Four Anbar governors have served in less than four years. One was assassinated, another resigned after surviving an attack and two, including the current one, have had sons kidnapped. Recently, local tribal leaders who have met with U.S. commanders have been killed.

Mr. al-Alwani operates under tight U.S. security at a government center in central Ramadi, which has been a favorite target of insurgents and is heavily guarded by U.S. troops.

Mr. al-Maliki’s visit came a day after a suicide car bomber detonated explosives near an Iraqi checkpoint in Ramadi, killing himself and wounding 15 persons, mostly civilians, the U.S. military said. More casualties were prevented because Iraqi troops opened fire and disabled the vehicle before it reached the checkpoint, the military said.

The prime minister said yesterday that extremists would flee to the hinterlands during the Baghdad security sweep.

Meanwhile, more than 700 additional U.S. troops arrived in Iraq’s increasingly volatile Diyala province to try to quell violence northeast of Baghdad.

The U.S. Army’s 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division moved from northern Baghdad into Baqouba to supplement about 3,500 American soldiers already stationed there.

The move comes at a time when more than 20,000 new American troops are pouring into Baghdad as part of a U.S.-Iraqi push to pacify the capital.

While sectarian killings in Baghdad have fallen since the crackdown began last month, violence has skyrocketed to the northeast in Diyala, where direct attacks on U.S. forces have risen 70 percent since last summer, according to U.S. military figures.

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