US, Iraqi troops brandish ‘sword’ against rebels

BAGHDAD (AP) — Baghdad’s mayor decried the capital’s crumbling infrastructure and its inability to supply enough water to its residents, threatening Thursday to resign if the government fails to provide the funds he needs to improve utilities.
Alaa Mahmoud Timimi’s threat came as the US military claimed some success over Baghdad’s other major problem, car bombs and suicide attackers. A spokesman said a recent Iraqi security operation, code-named Lightning, had worked.

“We had some degree of success with this deliberate operation because of partnership between Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces. We had a measurable success,” said US Air Force Brig. Gen. Don Alston, a spokesman for coalition forces in Iraq. But he did not supply specific numbers.

Separately, more than 1,000 suspected insurgents captured during Operation Lightning since it began on May 29 will face criminal trials in the coming days, police Col. Adnan Adul Rahman said without elaborating. The operation has not yet been completed.

US-led forces have detained more than a dozen suspected militants in a counterinsurgency sweep through western Anbar province as part of a sustained effort to disrupt the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, the military said Thursday.

They have been blamed for much of the violence that has killed more than 1,370 people — mostly civilians and Iraqi forces — since Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari announced his Shiite-led government April 28.

The US military said Thursday that more than one-thousand members of the Iraqi security services had died since the transfer of sovereignty one year ago. An announcement did not supply exact figures.

Separately, a joint statement allegedly issued by three militant groups on an Islamic website said their fighters would target a Sunni Arab politician who brokered secret talks between American officials and insurgents.

Former Cabinet member Ayham Samarie said he formed a group, the National Council for Unity and Construction of Iraq, to give political voice to Iraqi fighters, and demanded a timetable for a US troop withdrawal.

“We announce that it’s allowed to spill the blood of Ayham Samarie. We have been too patient with his lies and we used to just deny them and provide the facts. But this isn’t working anymore,” the statement said, adding that it was issued by the Ansar Sunnah Army, the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Army of Mujahedeen. Its authenticity could not be verified. Samarie, a dual Iraq-US citizen, is believed to have strong tribal links in the so-called Sunni Triangle in central Iraq, where the Sunni-dominated insurgency is concentrated.

“Coalition forces are not negotiating with insurgents, we do think that we have to open a dialogue with those who would choose the political process,” Alston said.

In Baghdad, Timimi complained he was having no success in negotiations for funds to rebuild the capital’s crumbling infrastructure.

“It’s useless for any official to stay in office without having the means to accomplish his job,” Timimi told a news conference. “I am still committed to my promise that I will quit and leave my position if I don’t get the instruments that allow me to carry out the plan I put for Baghdad.” He said President Jalal Talabani and Jaafari had promised him to secure the needed funds.

Timimi’s Spokesman Ameer Ali Hasson later said the municipality had requested $1.5 billion for 2005 but only received $85 million.

Hasson said the municipality was trying to expand its water projects to meet demand.

“We have to confess that Baghdad suffers a shortage in water,” Timimi told reporters. “The problem is escalating.” Earlier this month, insurgents sabotaged a water pipeline near Baghdad and left millions in the capital of six million people without enough water. Some Baghdad residents complain the water they now get smells bad.

Timimi said the pipeline had been repaired and the water levels were expected to return to normal in the coming days. He added, however, that shortages existed even before the pipeline sabotage and were expected to continue even after it was fixed. A number of projects in the works will lead to a slight improvement, he said.

Hasson said the country’s crumbling infrastructure and the lack of maintenance were in part to blame for the water shortage, adding that in some areas water gets mixed with sewage.

“I am part of the government and aware of the problems the country is facing,” Timimi said. “But I need to have technical support from the concerned parties at the government.” “The people are blaming me and the Baghdad municipality.” Baghdad has more than 160 billion litters of drinking water in reservoirs, the US military has said. Sixty-five water treatment projects have been completed in Iraq over the past year, it said, adding that about 100 projects were in progress.

Iraqis also complain of power shortages and lack of fuel, which they have difficulty obtaining in a country that has the world’s second largest proven oil reserves.

Before the US-led invasion, Baghdad residents enjoyed about 20 hours of electricity a day. Today, they get about 10, usually broken into two-hour chunks.

Much of the capital’s electricity during the Saddam Hussein era was a result of a poor distribution network throughout the country. The situation, however, has not improved, and the electricity network has steadily deteriorated because of sabotage and lack of maintenance in Baghdad and the rest of the country.

In other developments Thursday, Knight Ridder identified an Iraqi journalist who was shot and killed in the capital last week when his car approached an US-Iraqi military patrol as one of its special correspondents.

Yasser Salihee, 30, was killed while driving alone in Baghdad on June 24, his day off. A single bullet pierced his windshield and struck him in the head. It appeared that a US sniper shot him, but Iraqi soldiers in the area at the time also may have been shooting, the San Jose, California-based newspaper company said.

Knight Ridder Inc., which publishes 31 dailies in the United States and is the second-largest newspaper publisher in the country, hadn’t reported on Salihee’s death until now because his family feared reprisals from insurgents, who often target Iraqis working for foreign media organisations.

The US army was investigating the incident. Two other journalists were killed in similar incidents a few days later

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