Violence Escalates in Iraq's Tal Afar The northern city of Tal Afar has seen violence this week killing at least 150 people, both Sunni and Shiite. Just last year, President Bush singled out the town as a model of stability.
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Violence Escalates in Iraq's Tal Afar

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Violence Escalates in Iraq's Tal Afar

Violence Escalates in Iraq's Tal Afar

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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, telling stories from inside a women's prison.

BRAND: First, to Iraq and a terrorist attack and reprisal killings in a city once touted as a success story. Yesterday in the northern city of Tal Afar, at least 70 Sunnis were killed by an angry mob of Shiites and police officers.

CHADWICK: The day before that, the group calling itself al-Qaida in Iraq said that its followers carried out two truck bombings there in Tal Afar that killed more than 80 people, most of them were Shiite. President Bush had singled out Tal Afar a year ago as a model for the rest of Iraq.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: See, if you are a resident of Tal Afar for today, this is what you're going to see. You see that the terrorists who once exercised brutal control over every aspect of your city has been killed or captured or driven out or put on the run. You see your children going to school and playing safely in the streets.

CHADWICK: That's President Bush speaking a year ago. We're joined by Brigadier General Frank Wiercinski. He's deputy commanding general of Multinational Division-North, the military unit that is in control of the city of Tal Afar as well as Mosul and Tikrit, which is where he is now. General, welcome to DAY TO DAY.

Brigadier General FRANK WIERCINSKI (Deputy Commanding General, Multinational Division North): Thank you very much for having me.

CHADWICK: And tell me how has the situation in Tel Afar changed in the last year since President Bush made those remarks?

Gen. WIERCINSKI: I would tell that it is exactly as the president has stated. The terrorists had been driven out of Tal Afar. That is not to stay that they do not want to come back and they do not want to continue to cause death and destruction to these people who are working towards freedom and democracy.

They have the same mayor. They have the same leadership that they had since President Bush made that statement, and they are continuing on in the city. They had a tragic incident that occurred Tuesday by anti-Iraqi forces.

CHADWICK: That was a tremendous bomb that went off with, I think, at least 70 people killed. But then, the reaction to that - a mob action that followed yesterday including - by many press reports that we have seen - the participation of Iraqi national police officers. Are those reports correct, and what does that signify to you?

Gen. WIERCINSKI: The immediate aftermath after the bombing that night - it was reported to us. The people who had done this were in Iraqi police uniforms. The Major General Wopick(ph), the chief of police, showed up back in Tal Afar that following morning and is conducting a full up investigation with his police.

The police are in total control of the city. When I arrived that morning, there was almost a protest right outside of the government building with hundreds of people from Tal Afar. And you can imagine because they had not seen anything like this in quite some time. And emotions were very high.

Together, the mayor, the leadership, the Shia sheikhs, the coalition forces, the Iraqi police, the Iraqi army went out together in front of the people and addressed the people and told them this is what the anti-Iraqi forces want. They want us to fight each other. We are not going to let them win. And since they addressed that, there has been no violence back in Tal Afar.

CHADWICK: You haven't heard this because you've been in - well, you're there in Iraq. But NPR's MORNING EDITION for the last several days has been playing a series of reports with U.S. military officers who are training other officers. So these are all people with combat experience in Iraq, many of them trying to conduct operations with Iraqi police units.

And the stories that they tell again and again are just hard to hear, because the units that they're operating with sound more like the units that we've heard about in these reports. That is they're quite unreliable from the standpoint of the U.S. military officer. What do you tell your lieutenants and your captains who are working with these units?

Gen. WIERCINSKI: Well, I can't comment on the reports that you had, because I haven't heard them and I haven't seen them. I can tell you what I have seen. I know that two years ago in for, say, the City of Mosul in Nineveh province and in Tal Afar. There were no police out on the streets.

Today, where we are now after the training that we've conducted, there's 18,000 police plus in the streets of Mosul and in the streets of Tal Afar working day in day out. They are fighting the anti-Iraqi forces. They are out there every single day. They are getting killed because of their job, and they are doing the job of policing their own cities. That's what I see.

CHADWICK: U.S. Army Brigadier General Frank Wiercinski. He's deputy commanding general of the Multinational Division-North, speaking with us from Tikrit. General, thank you.

Gen. WIERCINSKI: Thank you.

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