By Joshua Partlow and Hasan Shammari
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
BAGHDAD, June 13 -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's month-old government rolled out its first major initiative against violence on Tuesday, announcing tighter crackdowns in the capital city in an attempt to combat killings and kidnappings.
The plan imposes curfews from roughly dusk to dawn each day and prohibits cars from moving on the streets for four hours during midday on Fridays, when many Muslims attend prayers in mosques. Residents will not be allowed to carry guns outside their homes, and more patrols and checkpoints are planned to raise the visibility of the military.
"People are carrying guns in the streets. How do we know if they are terrorists?" Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz Muhammed-Jassim, operations director of the general command of the Iraqi forces, said at a news conference at the Defense Ministry on Tuesday.
In the past week in Iraq, 203 civilians have been killed along with 78 insurgents, according to the Defense Ministry. In Baghdad alone, U.S.-led forces have conducted more than 1,100 patrols and set up 1,200 checkpoints to contain the violence.
Police patrols Tuesday found 16 bodies in Baghdad, evidence of the continuing sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis that threatens the viability of the new government, according to Col. Saad Abdul Karim of the Interior Ministry operations room. Four of the bodies, found in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Baladiyat, were those of men 30 to 40 years old. Some showed marks of torture and bullet holes in their skulls, Karim said. Police found five others -- handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head and chest -- near the Baghdad Gate north of the capital.
In the northern city of Kirkuk on Tuesday, a series of suicide car bombings that targeted Iraqi police killed 20 people and wounded dozens more.
The new plan, called "Advancing Forward Together,'' does not involve an increase in troops in the city, according to Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Wailli of the Interior Ministry. But it is intended to be more comprehensive than previous efforts, with economic incentives such as making gasoline easier to obtain and plans for "beautifying" a city full of buildings blasted by bombs and guns, officials said.
More than 61,000 members of the U.S.-led forces and the Iraqi army and national police are based in Baghdad, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a U.S. military spokesman. That number does not include local Iraqi police.
Other military officials have said recently that the current force would likely remain the same until the government begins to function.
Although some news reports trumpeted the security crackdown, it appeared the measures were a tightening and refinement of existing measures. For years, checkpoints and curfews have restricted movement in Baghdad. Many residents have welcomed a greater number of checkpoints lately for the protection they bring against the many armed men roaming the city.
Under the new plan, curfews that started at 11 p.m. or midnight will begin at 8:30 p.m. Residents may still keep as many as two weapons in their homes but cannot take them outside, Iraqi officials said.
Shammari reported from Baqubah. Correspondent Ellen Knickmeyer and special correspondents Naseer Nouri, K.I. Ibrahim and Omar Fekeiki in Baghdad and other Washington Post staff contributed to this report.