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Iraq Transition

Violence down amid Baghdad crackdown, Iraq says

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NEW: Democrats' bill setting timetable clears hurdle but unlikely to pass
• Saddam Hussein's sons exhumed, reburied near father's grave
• Iraq: Deadly attacks, bombings, mortar strikes, kidnappings down
• Reduced violence comes one month after security crackdown
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's military Wednesday reported significant reduction in violence a month after launching a coalition crackdown in the war-racked capital.

The numbers of deadly attacks, assassination attempts, bombings, mortar strikes and kidnappings have dropped since the operation's mid-February launch, said Iraqi Brig. Gen. Qassim Atta.

The number of civilians killed in Baghdad in the past four weeks was 265, compared with 1,440 killings from mid-January to mid-February, said Atta, a spokesman for the operation. (Effects of crackdown)

Atta also reported that 94 terrorists were killed in the February-March period, compared with 19 in the January-February time frame.

Other figures released by Atta included:

  • 102 roadside bombings in the February-March period; 163 in the January-February period;
  • 36 car bombs in February-March; 56 in January-February
  • 109 mortar attacks in February-March; 204 in January-February
  • 22 assassination incidents in February-March; 519 in January-February
  • 10 kidnapping incidents in February-March; 98 in January-February
  • Atta offered the statistics as key indications that the security crackdown is bearing fruit.

    The operation, known in Arabic as Fardh Al-Qanoon, involves about 80,000 U.S. and Iraqi security forces across the capital, while about two dozen joint security stations have been set up in neighborhoods throughout the city, according to the U.S. military.

    At a separate news conference Wednesday, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the security plan is showing "positive" signs of progress. U.S. military leaders expect to see a "discernible difference" in and around the city by a "fall time frame," Caldwell said.

    "If the high-profile car bombs can be stopped or brought down to a much lower level, we'll just see an incredible difference in the city overall," Caldwell said. "The murders and executions have come down by over 50 percent."

    Caldwell said two of five new brigades of American troops are in place conducting operations, and a third brigade is on the way.

    Day's Iraqi death toll: At least 12

    The updates came as authorities reported continued violence across Iraq on Wednesday.

    The attacks included a bombing at an outdoor market in Tuz Khurmatu that killed four people and wounded 10 others, according to a Salaheddin police official. Tuz Khurmatu, a predominantly Turkmen town, is in northeastern Salaheddin province -- north of Baghdad.

    In Diwaniya, insurgents Wednesday dragged three Iraqi policemen and shot them. Two of them were killed and one was wounded. Police found the bodies and the injured officer near a canal. Diwaniya is the Shiite provincial capital of the southern Iraqi province of Qadisiya.

    In western Baghdad's Yarmouk neighborhood, a suicide car bomb detonated near a police checkpoint, killing two civilians and wounding four others Wednesday.

    Gunmen opened fire on a car in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Adhamiya, a Sunni district. The deputy head of Adhamiya's city council and his three guards were killed.

    And on Tuesday, 14 bullet-riddled bodies were found dumped across the capital, police said. The thousands of corpses found dumped in Baghdad over the last year are thought to be people killed in sectarian violence.

    U.S.: We're tracking al-Sadr

    Reduced violence in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, Caldwell said, may be linked to the absence of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who he said was located in neighboring Iran "as of 24 hours ago."

    Also contributing to relative quiet in Sadr City, Caldwell said, is cooperation between neighborhood officials and Iraqi authorities. Caldwell said not one single incident was reported during U.S. and Iraqi military clearing operations in the sprawling district.

    Twenty percent of the densely populated neighborhood has been cleared so far, Caldwell said, which means that area has been swept of insurgents and weaponry.

    Despite the positive signs, Caldwell said Wednesday the U.S. military remains concerned about Iraq's Shiite Mehdi militia, which is loyal to al-Sadr.

    Coalition forces have detained about 700 militia members in the past few months, he said.

    The anti-American Shiite cleric represents a "very significant part" of Iraq's political machinery, according to Caldwell.

    "We are in fact tracking his whereabouts," Caldwell said.

    Members of al-Sadr's militia are thought to be involved in sectarian violence, and the security crackdown has been targeting such armed Shiite groups.

    The cleric reportedly fled to predominantly Shiite Iran about the time U.S. and Iraqi forces launched the Baghdad crackdown.

    Al-Sadr has been supportive of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and helped al-Maliki's rise to power in 2006.

    Al-Maliki has said that no lawbreaker will be immune to the security operations.

    Debate heats up as U.S. toll rises

    The U.S. Senate on Wednesday cleared a procedural roadblock, setting up a heated debate over a binding Democratic resolution to set a date for U.S. troops to leave Iraq.

    After Republican Tuesday dropped their opposition to beginning debate on the proposal, the issue moved to the debate on a vote of 89-9. All nine no votes were Republicans. (Full story Video)

    Why the Republicans decided to no longer block the vote depends on whom you ask. Democrats would say it's because Republicans no longer want to be labeled obstructionists. But Republicans realize the resolution is unlikely to pass.

    The Democrats' resolution calls for phased redeployment to start four months after it becomes law, with a goal of March 31, 2008, for all combat troops to leave from Iraq. Remaining troops would focus on troop protection, training Iraqi forces and counterterrorism.

    But even before the debate began, the legislation seemed doomed to fail. Moderate Republicans who had sided with Democrats last month in opposition to the president's troop increase dislike setting a deadline to leave, as do some Democrats. President Bush has threatened to veto any such measure.

    The movement in the Senate debate came as three U.S. soldiers died Wednesday and nine were injured in Iraq's Diyala province, the U.S. military said.

    Two of the soldiers died as a result of separate roadside bombings while they were conducting combat operations. A third died from small arms fire, the military said.

    The military also reported the Tuesday deaths of a Marine and two U.S. soldiers.

    The deaths bring to 3,192 the number of U.S. soldiers killed since the Iraq war began. Seven American civilian contractors of the military also have died in the contract.

    Other developments

  • The sons of late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein have been reburied near their father, an Iraqi tribal leader said Wednesday. The bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein, killed by U.S. forces in the northern city of Mosul in 2003, were exhumed from the old Awja cemetery north of Baghdad, according to Ali al-Nida, head of the Albu Nasir tribe. They have been reburied outside a hall where their father was buried after his hanging in December, al-Nida said. "We buried them according to their family's will," he said.
  • Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, 73, returned home Wednesday to Sulaimaniya in Iraq's Kurdish region after more than two weeks in a Jordanian hospital. The reason for Talabani's hospitalization remains uncertain. At the time, a hospital source told CNN that doctors performed a catheterization procedure on his heart, but family aides denied that report, saying Talabani was suffering from exhaustion and lung inflammation.
  • CNN's Jennifer Deaton and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.


    • Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
    • Interactive: Sectarian divide


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