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Friday, April 06, 2007

Iraqis, Coalition Working Together to Secure Tal Afar

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2007 – Coalition and Iraqi forces are working with city leaders to secure the Iraqi city of Tal Afar after a bombing at a market killed more than 80 people earlier this week, a military official said today in a briefing from the city.

“It’s been a tremendously busy four days, tremendously stressful four days,” Army Lt. Col. Malcom Frost, commander of 3rd Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, told journalists from Forward Operating Base Sykes in Tal Afar. “But … the city is now secure and going back to its normal routines.”

The question of possible involvement by Iraqi security forces, police or army has come up since the March 27 attack. Frost dismissed the notion that Iraqi forces had anything to do with the incident.

“As we investigate this, there’s no indication that this was an inside job or that the Iraqi police or army or security forces supported this incident from the inside so to speak,” he said. “As much as we want war to be, it is not a zero-defect exercise, and unfortunately the enemy sometimes finds a seam. This is the case in this incident.”

Extra measures are in place to prevent another such incident, he added. Checkpoints are being reinforced and joint checkpoints are being increased, as are patrols.

Frost said coalition an Iraqi security forces are working to ensure that the attack doesn’t overshadow the good works done during the past 15 months. Schools and medical clinics have been built, infrastructure and the general economic situation of the residents of Tal Afar have been improved.

“I want to emphasize that this tragic event is absolutely not indicative of the thousands of good things that have happened over the last 15 months in the city of Tal Afar,” Frost said.

In addition to working with the Iraqis to help secure the city, he added that coalition forces are conducting successful humanitarian assistance missions to provide food, medical supplies and shelter to the victims of the March 27 blast.

Frost describes the market bombing as the insurgents’ “Hail Mary” attempt to regain a foothold in the city, incite sectarian violence, and undermine the credibility of the Iraqi police and the local government. It fell short, he said.

Instead of driving the city into continued sectarian violence, it has had the opposite effect, he said, as the city’s residents have come together.

“Sometimes you must take half a step back to take two steps forward,” he said. “I’m confident that the city that has already come together will take those steps forward and continue to progress toward a more secure and stable area here in Tal Afar.”

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