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Iraq's Prime Minister Praises Baghdad Security for Reducing Violence


Iraq's Prime Minister has praised Baghdad security forces for their hard work in reducing violence in the city. Overall, security in the Iraqi capital has improved in the past few months but deadly attacks continue to terrorize Iraqis. Daniel Schearf reports from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamal Al-Maliki on Friday praised Baghdad's top security commanders for not letting politics or ideology get in the way of winning an important victory against terrorist forces in Iraq.

He said many Iraqis had lost hope that violence would ever be reduced and were expecting civil war to break out. But, he said security forces, who are themselves a mix of ethnic and religious backgrounds, had shown Iraqis could work together for peace.

Mr. Maliki says Baghdad security forces have proved they can control sectarian violence. He says they have silenced critical groups and countries who were betting Iraq would fail. Mr. Maliki says he understands it is hard for security forces to forget which group they belong to and to just remember one thing- working for Iraq and for the Iraqi people.

Mr. Maliki was marking the one year anniversary of a law and order campaign that was followed by a surge in American troop levels.

The surge spread an additional 30-thousand U.S. soldiers mainly in and around Baghdad and had them engage more directly with Iraqis.

The U.S.-led coalition troops began supporting Sunni Iraqi militias, some of whom they had previously fought against, to help establish order and drive out foreign fighters and Al-Qaida terrorists.

Shia militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr also declared a six-month ceasefire against security forces.

Security improved and violent attacks went down by 60 percent nation-wide from June to December.

But, sporadic bombings and attacks by insurgents have not stopped.

On Friday at least four people were killed and 16 wounded in the northern town of Tal Afar when two suicide bombers with explosive vests blew themselves up at the entrance to a Shi'ite mosque.

Earlier this month almost 100 people were killed when two women with Down syndrome and strapped with explosives were remote detonated at two separate Baghdad pet markets. It was the deadliest attack in the capital in months.

Insurgent attacks in Iraq have killed thousands since the U.S.-led invasion. Sporadic fighting has forced millions of Iraqis to flee their homes, many to neighboring countries Jordan and Syria.

This week Jordan announced it would give a preferential tax rate to Iraqis who stay in Jordan. Jordan's Interior Minister said a new visa scheme had also been worked out with Iraq to make it easier for Iraqis to legally enter the country.