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Violence rises in several Iraqi cities


BAGHDAD - As commanders in Iraq have deployed about 40,000 troops to guard checkpoints, conduct searches and secure entrances to Baghdad, violence in other cities has raised concerns that the crackdown in the capital is leaving other trouble spots more vulnerable to insurgent attacks.

Numerous attacks in Mosul during the past five days have claimed the lives of 11 people, wounding another 11. In the latest assault, insurgents fired mortars yesterday at a police station in the northern city, killing at least one civilian.

In nearby Tal Afar, Iraqi police officers shot and killed two insurgents who attacked their compound with rocket-propelled grenades. In a mortar attack in Tal Afar on Sunday, five people were killed, including two women and two children, according to the U.S military.

In a National Assembly meeting yesterday in the fortified Green Zone, Muhsin Sadoon, a Sunni from the Iraqi List, which won the majority of seats in recent elections, proposed a summit between a group of tribal sheiks and representatives from the Defense and Interior ministries to discuss the security situation in Tal Afar.

After Sunni and Shiite clashes there, the city has been on the brink of civil war, with armed militias patrolling the streets.

"We cannot talk about rebuilding or economic improvements until we control the security," said Khisro Jaff, a Kurdish assembly member.

In Mosul, residents said that troops who used to patrol their neighborhood streets had been sent to the capital to participate in the operation there.

"Their presence was helping us to move safely, now our fear is growing," said Fawaz Nagash, 28, who sells clothes in the city. "Mosul is no less important than Baghdad. It also needs sufficient security forces."

The presence of troops, "whatever their name or shape," is necessary, said Ethra Jabr, 33, a government official. "After we heard that the troops left, we felt more intimidated."

But teacher Sabir Ahmed Mohsen, 45, said all the Iraqi security forces had done was to incite more sectarian violence. "We've heard a lot about torturing of clerics, especially Sunni," he said, referring to a recent spate of killings of Shiite and Sunni clerics. "So we don't miss them."

Also yesterday, a suicide bomber fired on Iraqi soldiers stationed at festival grounds in downtown Tikrit, wounding a young girl, according to Iraqi officials.

Another suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives near the entrance to a police station in Baghdad's Amil neighborhood, wounding three people. Gunmen assassinated Iraqi Army Lt. Col. Mazin Mohammed at a checkpoint in the Sheik Omar neighborhood Sunday night, according to Iraqi officials.

A spate of assassinations, suicide attacks and bombings followed the announcement of a new government in late April. Targeting both security forces and civilians, insurgents have killed more than 800 people in the past month. In May, 80 American soldiers died, up from 52 the previous month, according to figures compiled by the Associated Press. So far, four U.S. soldiers have died in June.

Assassinations and suicide bombings appeared to have waned in the past few days as the raids known as Operation Lightning have detained dozens of suspected insurgents. Many Iraqis fear that militants could step up attacks on less protected targets elsewhere. Insurgents stage about 70 attacks nationwide every day.

Wayne White, a senior analyst at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said some raids are counterproductive because many people are falsely arrested. Larger American operations, such as two recently completed by U.S. Marines in the western Anbar province bordering Syria, do little good unless troops stay behind and secure the area, he said.

"The problem is that the terrorists get a vote on where and when they will decide to attack," said Lt. Col Steven Boylan, a military spokesman in Baghdad. "I'm not sure if the term worried is right, as we continually look across the scope of operations [to] ensure we are doing what we can, where we can."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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