(AFP) – Jan 2, 2008
BAQUBA, Iraq (AFP) — Almost two-thirds of insurgent attacks in Iraq occur in the north of the war-ravaged country, although overall levels of violence have dropped, a US said on Wednesday.
"The percentage of attacks are much more higher in the north than anywhere else in Iraq," said General James Boozer, US assistant commander in chief for northern Iraq.
"For example, there's an average of 50 attacks a day in the north, eight in Baghdad and two or three in Anbar. We can say that 60 percent of the attacks occur in (the north)," he said.
Boozer was speaking at a press conference in Baquba, capital of Diyala province north of Baghdad that is regarded as one of the most dangerous regions in Iraq.
Since June, he said, the number of attacks had dropped by around 60 percent across the country and by 40 percent in northern Iraq where about 20,000 US troops are based.
In addition, US forces had stopped insurgents using Diyala -- where he said Al-Qaeda militants were concentrated -- as a key link to Baghdad, Boozer added.
"Diyala is a crucial line of communication that the enemy wants to keep and that they were using to go to Baghdad. That line is now pretty sealed."
Boozer said the northern towns of Baquba, Mosul and Muqdadiyah were the key areas of violence, adding the greatest challenge facing US-led forces was helping Iraq return to normal life.
Diyala province has more than 300 tribes made up of both Sunnis and Shiites. Many people were killed or fled at the height of the sectarian violence which followed an attack on the Shiite mosque in the central town of Samarra in 2006.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 Sunni militants have turned against Al-Qaeda in Diyala and joined forces with US troops as part of militant groups known as Awakening Councils -- a move US commanders say has helped reduce overall levels of violence.
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