Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Security in Mahmudiyah good, getting better, mayor says

Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — The security situation in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, is “one hundred percent better” than it was a year ago, said Col. Ali, commander of the 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division in a conference with Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) Dec. 23.
The mayor of Mahmudiyah, Maayad Fadthil al-Shibli, acknowledged that some people are still fearful, but said that as soon as the Iraqi Army finds problems, they begin offensive operations to put a stop to them.
“Of course I feel safer,” al-Shibli said. “And not just me. The locals do, too.”
Al-Shibli also said that plans are underway to open more businesses in the Mahmudiyah area, including dairy factories that will help farmers sell their milk and bring in more money.
“We can defeat terrorists another way,” he said. “If the people have jobs, they won’t work for terrorists. We must rebuild step by step.”
While the Iraqi army is more capable at this point, the mayor said, the Iraqi police are also a help.
“We’ve had meetings with the IA, the IPs and local government,” he explained. “They’re saving the city. All the ideas are saving the city.”
Ali said that two years ago, the area around Mahmudiyah was known as the Triangle of Death.
“It’s taken a lot of sacrifice and a lot of casualties,” Ali said, to remedy that reputation. People used to be shot and beheaded in the streets.
“Now tens of thousands of people travel these roads going to Al-Hillah, to An-Najaf.”
The Iraqi army is sending a clear message to the terrorists, Ali said, that they are not in control of the city.
“Some sectors were 100 percent terrorist,” Ali said, citing the abandoned Yusufiyah Thermal Power Plant and other areas known as terror hotbeds.
“We’ve done so much, the peoples’ vision is changing,” Ali said. “It’s a hard sector, but terrorist acts are down, and the difference between sectors is huge.”
Still, more remains to be done.
“I cannot tell you that it is complete,” said Ali. “But 75 to 80 percent of the problem is gone. With time, it will improve more.”
“We are always planning. The plan is not just for the city – I will always go after the terrorists, to arrest them. We conduct many offensive operations on all levels, and we’re also helping the local people.”
In response to assertions that people are afraid to come to Mahmudiyah, Ali said that they have not been to the city in a long time.
“Many people come to Mahmudiyah to shop,” he said. “They come from all over. Some people benefit from spreading rumors about Mahmudiyah being unsafe, but we are making it safe. Look at the markets – they’re very busy.”
There are people from everywhere.
“Baghdad markets close down at about two p.m. because people are afraid. In Mahmudiyah, you can still shop at 7:30 p.m., things are still open,” Ali said.
“We are sending a message to terrorists,” said the mayor. “As long as you are here, you will not win. We will always have people chasing you.”

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