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Explosions Kill 5 in Baghdad; US Military Says Attacks Have Declined


Two explosions in Baghdad killed at least five people and injured over 20 others Friday, but a senior U.S. military official says the overall number of insurgent attacks has gone down.

Major-General William Webster said he had no immediate information on Friday's attacks in Baghdad. But, the general said the insurgency has grown weaker since parliamentary elections were held earlier this month. "The number of attacks is down since the elections. If you measure it [only] against last year at this time, the number of attacks is greater, but the number of successful attacks is down to around 10 percent," he said.

General Webster, speaking to reporters via videophone from Baghdad, said that a year ago, 25 to 30 percent of attacks resulted in death or injury. He credited counter-insurgency operations by both Iraqi and U.S. forces for the drop in successful attacks.

General Webster said Iraqi forces are now providing security for 60 percent of Baghdad, an achievement he cited as an important part of the U.S. mission to train Iraqi forces to take over, allowing the Americans to pull back and keep a lower profile.

He said U.S. forces are increasingly turning their attention to training the Iraqi police, which have come under heavy criticism recently amid allegations that the police force is heavily infiltrated by members of Shi'ite militias, and that they have tortured Sunni Arab prisoners.

General Webster said prisons and detention centers continue to be inspected, and he said the number of U.S. troops training and advising Iraqi police is being stepped up. "It's certainly to prepare them to conduct operations within the rule of law," he noted.

Asked about concerns of militia infiltration, General Webster acknowledged it is a difficult situation to assess. "In a very complex society, where allegiances and loyalties go back thousands of years to tribe and family and political groups and religious groups," he explained, "on any given day, it might be one of those that they say is motivating them more than allegiance to the nation."

General Webster said the sense of allegiance to the nation is a new concept for Iraqis, one that will take time to develop. He said it is part of the training security forces receive.

General Webster is commander of the multinational division in Baghdad, which is made up of American soldiers as well as troops from Georgia, Macedonia and Estonia.

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