Story Highlights• Iraq's police paying a "great price," U.S. general says
• 12,000 officers lost to force in two years -- 4,000 of them killed
• U.S. general says police officers more confident, better equipped
• Vehicle and pedestrian movement banned because of violence in Kirkuk
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Thousands of Iraqi police officers have been killed or wounded over the past two years, the U.S. commander in charge of police training in Iraq said Friday.
Since September 2004, about 4,000 officers have been killed and 8,000 injured, said Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson in a teleconference from Baghdad with Pentagon reporters. The police have "paid a great price," he said.
U.S. commanders are focused on reducing violence in Baghdad to the level where the Iraqi police can take over security.
With the Iraqi capital secured, U.S. leaders say the Iraqi government can switch its focus to providing security and basic services to the rest of the country. That would set the conditions for U.S. troops to begin withdrawing. (Watch key GOP senator's dire warning after Iraq visit -- 2:29 )
But the Iraqi police have been criticized for their performance and for ties to militias and death squads suspected of hundreds of kidnappings and murders each month.
Such suspicions led to the removal of the 8th Brigade from the streets of Baghdad the other day. The move was in response to the kidnapping Sunday of more than 20 people in the brigade's area of operations. Seven of the people were later found dead.
The Interior Ministry's decision to put the police brigade in a training status is "very, very positive," Peterson said, adding, "it will grow confidence, not only in the ministry but also its forces."
Peterson said he didn't know how many police officers were loyal to militias.
But he thinks the police have improved their performance in the past year.
"If you think about it, a year ago we had a situation where a police station was attacked, and policemen would run out the back door leaving all the equipment," he said.
"That does not occur anymore," Peterson said. "Our policemen are more confident. They're led with more capable and confident leaders. They're better equipped, and they're fighting bad guys, and they're staying in place."
Kurdish lawmaker killed
In northern Baghdad on Friday, a bomb exploded near a generator powering homes in Qahira, injuring eight civilians, police said.
Police also found the bullet-riddled bodies of a Kurdish member of parliament and his driver Thursday evening on the streets of a Sunni neighborhood in northern Baghdad, according to a fellow Iraqi lawmaker.
Mohammed Ridha Mahmoud was the lone representative of the Jamaat Islamiya Kurdish party, or Islamic Group party, in the assembly, and the first member of the new Iraqi parliament to be killed, said Firyad Rawndouzi.
Both Mahmoud and his driver had gunshot wounds to the head and chest.
The killings came on the day U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the northern Iraqi town of Irbil. There she met with Kurdish leaders to press the need to work toward national reconciliation.
CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jomana Karadsheh contributed to this report.
An Iraqi police commando secures an area in Baquba this week after a gunman attacked a truck carrying a Shiite family.
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