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Baghdad Body Count Down but Attacks Continue


Baghdad's top military official has said security forces are finding fewer dead bodies on the capital's streets, indicating that sectarian and insurgent attacks have dropped sharply. But, bombings and tensions between security forces remain problematic. Daniel Schearf reports from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Lieutenant General Abboud Qanbar told journalists Saturday they were finding fewer bullet-riddled corpses in Baghdad these days. Whereas in 2006 they found more than 40 discarded bodies a day, for the last year they have found around four each day.

Qanbar said a much needed year-long security operation by Iraqis helped reduce the body count. "In a time when you could hear nothing but explosions, gunfire and the screams of mothers and fathers and sons, and see bodies that were burned and dismembered, the people of Baghdad were awaiting Operation Imposing Law," he said.

Qanbar's comments came the same day Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki toured Baghdad streets to demonstrate how security had improved in the capital. Mr. Maliki walked into shops and talked with locals and checkpoint guards all while under heavily armed escort.

Mr. Maliki on Friday praised Iraqi and U.S.-led forces for forcing al-Qaida out of Baghdad and reducing terrorist attacks nationwide by 60 percent despite their own ideological, religious, and political differences.

The reduced violence has been largely due to 30,000 more U.S. troops being on the ground and radical Shia and Sunni leaders' calls for cease-fire and even cooperation with security forces.

Sunni militias that once fought against security forces have formed what the United States calls "concerned local citizens" groups to now help with security.

Despite the lull in violence, sporadic bombings, attacks, and kidnappings continue to threaten Iraqis. Earlier this month nearly 100 people were killed in Baghdad pet markets by twin suicide bombings. And tensions between security forces have not been completely snuffed out.

One concerned local citizens group said it was suspending its activities after some of its members were killed Friday in an incident near a town south of Baghdad. The unit said an American helicopter fired on them and killed at least three. The U.S. military said it is investigating the incident.

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