By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
BAGHDAD, Jan. 29 -- The U.S. military plans to boost the number of neighborhood outposts across the capital by more than 30 percent this year even as American forces begin to withdraw, the new commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad said Tuesday.
During a luncheon with reporters in the heavily fortified Green Zone, Maj. Gen. Jeffery W. Hammond said he would increase the number of garrisons in the city from 75 to 99 by June to "push ourselves into locations where maybe in the past we didn't go before."
"I don't want there to be anyplace in Baghdad where al-Qaeda or anyone else can start to take hold because we've ignored that particular" area, he said, referring to the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. He called the improved security conditions in Baghdad "remarkable."
In northern Iraq, meanwhile, the remains of 19 people -- 10 heads and nine intact corpses -- were discovered in the town of Muqdadiyah in Diyala province, northeast of the capital, police said. Elsewhere, officials said a suicide car bomber in the northern city of Mosul injured at least 15 people.
The carnage underscored how northern Iraq has become a growing hub for al-Qaeda in Iraq, even as U.S. troops succeed in driving its fighters out of the capital and Anbar province in the west.
In Diyala province, most of the dead had been shot in the head, and several bodies had decomposed so badly that officials concluded they had been buried for quite some time. But hospital officials said at least four of the intact corpses had been freshly interred and may have belonged to al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters killed in recent battles.
The attack in Mosul, the third-largest city in Iraq, targeted a U.S. military patrol, though no American soldiers were wounded, Iraqi officials said. There were conflicting reports on whether an Iraqi civilian had been killed in addition to the suicide bomber.
The bombing came one day after five U.S. soldiers were killed in an attack in Mosul and one week after a blast killed as many as 60 people in the city.
Iraqi forces in recent days have sent troop reinforcements to the city in what Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised would be a decisive battle against the insurgents, though U.S. officials have cautioned the fighting is likely to be a long struggle.
"The problem is that all the fighters escaped here because they have nowhere else to go," said Brig. Gen. Sayeed Ahmed Abdulla, spokesman for the police in Nineveh province, whose capital is Mosul. "But, God willing, we will clean every last one of them out of this city."
Special correspondents in Mosul and Diyala contributed to this report.