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Friday, October 12, 2007      New: Take a Stand

U.S. reports reports record number of tips from Sunnis in Baghdad

BAGHDAD The U.S. military said Iraqi civilians have been relaying information on Al Qaida and Shi'ite insurgents and weapons caches.

Officials reported a significant increase in tips to authorities, which they said have been translated into an improvement in security in Baghdad.

"We've seen a large increase in tips that have led to the seizure of caches in the areas where concerned citizen groups are formed," Maj. Rhett Griner, coordinator of the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, said.

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Officials said the biggest increase has come from Sunni residents of Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported. Long intimidated by Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein loyalists, Sunni residents of Baghdad have phoned in a record number of tips over the last three months.

"We have received 34 tips that have led to the arrest of 91 insurgents in the last 90 days," Griner, whose unit is part of the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division, said.

The U.S. military has been wooing Iraqi Sunnis, particularly those in the Anbar and Baghdad provinces. The military has helped organize a Sunni auxiliary force comprised of members who patrol neighborhoods in cooperation with the Iraq Army and police.

Sunni tribal sheiks in Baghdad have also been organized to help improve security. On Oct. 4, officials met with more than 300 sheiks from the Mada'in county in Baghdad to discuss reconciliation as well as a plan to recruit Sunnis in the Iraqi security forces.

"When this many sheiks attend a meeting such as this, it is an indicator that the people are tired of the violence and have a desire to return to normalcy," Maj. Dave Fivecoat, the operations officer of 3rd BCT, said.

Officials said the increase in Sunni security cooperation has marked a major element in the stabilization of Anbar and Baghdad. A U.S. military plan envisions the recruitment of thousands of Sunnis into the police and security forces.

"We are optimistic that their inclusion will ultimately enable the ISF [Iraqi security forces] to accurately represent and effectively secure the local populace," Maj. Jeremy Moore, the 3rd BCT liasion to the Iraqi security force, said.

Officials said Shi'ites have also volunteered to patrol neighborhoods and identify insurgents. They said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has been meeting Sunni and Shi'ite leaders of volunteer citizen networks.

"You'll see Shia concerned local citizens and you'll see Sunni concerned local citizens in the hundreds," U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner said on Wednesday. "There actually is a significant amount of outreach under way, and it has crossed sectarian lines."

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