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Violence Continues in Baghdad Neighborhoods

A new Pentagon report says violence in Iraq has reached the point where conditions exist for a civil war. The Pentagon's quarterly report to the U.S. Congress cites the rising tide of violence in and around Baghdad as particularly troubling. VOA's Peter Fedynsky looks at the precarious state of several Baghdad neighborhoods hit by sectarian violence.

A funeral procession in April of this year in the Adamiyah neighborhood of eastern Baghdad ended in bloodshed. A U.S. commander now in the area, Colonel Tom Vail, says Iraqi and U.S. forces have cordoned off a portion of Adamiyah to rid it of what he termed "murderers, kidnappers, and terrorists." He says now there is other work to do.

"Our leaders have met with the local officials to determine requirements for security and services, and we're concentrating on trash and debris removal, power generation and medical support,” says the colonel. “In addition, our civil affairs teams are assisting with the re-opening of shops and stores.”

But violence elsewhere in the Iraqi capital continues unabated. Fresh destruction in the al-Mustansiriyah neighborhood in eastern Baghdad resembles that of al-Kahira, which resembles yet another neighborhood, al Harthiyah in western Baghdad.

"Two cars were parked here and when the Iraqi police patrol car passed, they exploded and lots of innocent people were killed," said an eyewitness to a bombing.

Colonel Vail says U.S. and Iraqi forces have deployed substantial resources to get the violence under control.

"You know, you exercise combat power in one area, and then what about the other area? The way we get around that is that we have presence throughout Baghdad and we have presence throughout east Baghdad: 34 battalions, 8,000 police, 42 police stations, [and] transition teams with every battalion."

President Bush last Thursday described Iraqi insurgents as "enemies of liberty," who are linked to al-Qaida terrorists and Hezbollah militants.

"The unifying feature of this movement, the link that spans sectarian divisions and local grievances, is the rigid conviction that free societies are a threat to their twisted view of Islam," said the president.

But some analysts say the president's approach is too simplistic. Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International magazine. He says, "The central strategic flaw, it seems to me, is to think of all these groups as united. They are not, and we should be exploiting their differences, not lumping them all together."

Much of the violence in Baghdad involves sectarian killing between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Colonel Tom Vail says terrorists and common criminals complicate the picture.

"Al Qaida is one of our threats. Extremist groups on either -- of any religion. We have extremist groups that are taking full advantage, through intimidation, to extort individuals for money and for power and then to try to disrupt the new government. And then, lastly, we have just the common criminals. We have gangs and criminal activity that goes on, and they're violating the rule of law."

The Pentagon's latest quarterly report to the U.S. Congress says the current violence in Iraq is not a civil war, but notes that conditions for such a conflict exist. An Iraqi government report says 769 civilians were killed in August. More than 1,000 died in July.