Iraq Wary Of Violence As U.S. Combat Mission Ends
LIANE HANSEN, host:
A group affiliated with al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for widespread and coordinated attacks in Iraq last week. Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has put the country on high alert, warning of more attacks. The violence comes as the U.S. is trying to recast its efforts in Iraq, drawing down its combat forces and ramping up its diplomatic efforts.
NPR's Kelly McEvers reports from Baghdad.
KELLY MCEVERS: In a statement read over state television yesterday, Maliki said officials have received information that Islamic insurgents and former members of Saddam Hussein's regime are planning a series of attacks across the country. His remarks came days after at least 56 people were killed and more than 250 injured on a single day, in a wave of car bombings, roadside bombs, and hit-and-run attacks in more than a dozen Iraqi cities and towns.
Major General QASSIM ATTA (Spokesman, Baghdad Operations Command): (Foreign language spoken)
MCEVERS: Today, Iraqi military spokesman Qassim Atta tried to reassure people that Iraqi security forces have a handle on the situation. He says Iraqi forces are actively pursuing an al-Qaida cell that's responsible for hundreds of attacks over the last two years.
Although overall violence is down in Iraq, the number of attacks rose sharply in July and August. Both Iraqi and American officials worry that insurgents are exploiting the fact that the American military is drawing down its forces here, and the fact that Iraqi leaders have yet to form a government nearly six months since parliamentary elections.
This coming week, American commanders and diplomats will bid farewell to General Ray Odierno, who led American troops through some of Iraq's most violent years when widespread, coordinated attacks were a daily occurrence.
The American operation here will be renamed New Dawn. But most Iraqis say they aren't so optimistic.
Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Baghdad.