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US Military says Iraqi Al-Qaida Group Defeated in One Province


A top U.S. military commander in Iraq says American armed forces in al-Anbar province have defeated insurgents from al-Qaida in Iraq. As VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports from Washington, that does not mean attacks have ceased in surrounding areas.

U.S. Marine Colonel Richard Simcock, who commands the 6th Marine Regiment, says his forces have successfully routed the insurgents in Anbar province.

"There are still attacks in Fallujah and surrounding areas," said Colonel Simcock. "We have not killed or captured every single al-Qaida member that is here. But their capabilities are greatly diminished. I would characterize them as a defeated force from my perspective."

Speaking to reporters in Washington via satellite from Iraq, Colonel Simcock says the surge of more U.S. forces in Anbar and Baghdad has allowed Marines to stay in areas where al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists have fled to prevent insurgents from returning.

He also credits the cooperation of the Iraqi army and police, as well as local tribal leaders in the effort to defeat al-Qaida in Iraq and bring security to Anbar.

"That has been the building block that has allowed the people to come out and participate in governance," he said. "But, probably more importantly, it allows them to come out and do the things that a lot of the citizens here in al-Anbar have not been able to do because of murder and intimidation that al-Qaida was doing. We have made great strides in regards to that, and we are very, very pleased with the progress that we are making."

U.S. State Department official Stephen Fakan leads the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Anbar province.

He says his job is to build on the security provided by the Marines and Iraqi forces. Fakan says his team is working on economic development, creating new jobs and reclaiming thousands of hectares of farmland.

"One of the big things that has happened since we arrived is the fact that the municipal governments are starting to stand up," said Stephen Fakan. "The city of Fallujah now has a city council, has a mayor, has a city council chairman that are all very responsive to the needs of their constituency, and are working very hard and working very much together to try to solve some of the essential services problems that are being confronted by these folks today."

The remarks regarding the defeat of the al-Qaida offshoot in Anbar province came on the same day as The Washington Post newspaper reported that the U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and possibly irreversible blows to the terrorist organization in Iraq in recent months.

The newspaper reports that some U.S. military leaders want to declare victory over al-Qaida in all of Iraq. Other officials reportedly are cautioning against such a declaration because they do not want to underestimate an enemy that has shown great resilience in the past.