BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraqi National Guard and police forces killed at least 13 insurgents Sunday after they were ambushed while providing security for U.S. troops conducting raids north of Baghdad.
The forces, who were attacked by gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades, pursued the insurgents into the town of Buhriz, about 35 miles north of Baghdad. No Iraqi forces or U.S. soldiers were hurt in the hour-long clash with the insurgents, many of whom were dressed in black and wore masks, televised footage of the operation showed. It was one of the first major battles the new Iraqi forces have faced.
Iraqi security forces have become more visible since the U.S. transfer of political authority to an interim government on June 28. Iraqi and U.S. officials concede that the forces are not ready to assume full control of security operations, but they are becoming more involved in operations, including manning additional checkpoints throughout the capital the past two days.
At a pharmacy on Sadoun Street in central Baghdad on Sunday, a pharmacist and his customers welcomed the increasing visibility of the forces.
“The situation is getting better because the Iraqis are controlling the security and the Iraqi streets,” said Ali Adnan, 45, the pharmacist. “What they need is time and supplies. And I think that only Iraqis are able to control the situation because they are part of this country and they know how to deal with the people.”
But he added, “They are not ready to control everything.”
“What the Iraqi forces are doing is great,” said Fatima Mohammad, 38, a teacher who was buying medicine. “The U.S. forces are not like before; we see the Iraqi forces more than we see the American forces nowadays.”
Mohammad also said that U.S. troops must continue to support the Iraqi police.
“We consider the new forces are newly born,” she said. “Like the baby who is newly born, they need some care. If the American forces leave the country, there will be no country named Iraq.”
Iraqi insurgents stand guard on a street corner during clashes with Americans on Sunday in Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad.