August 20th, 2007 05:43 EST
Tracking down bomb plotters in BAGHDAD
BAGHDAD " Coalition force members will track down those responsible for the coordinated attacks in northwestern Iraq this week against members of the Yazidis, a small Kurdish-speaking sect, a senior military spokesman in Iraq said today.
"Iraqi security and Coalition forces will not rest until those who perpetrated this reprehensible act are brought to justice," U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Mark I. Fox, deputy spokesman for Multi-National Force-Iraq, said in a news conference.
On Tuesday, four suicide truck bombers struck nearly simultaneously in two villages near the Syrian border. More than 200 people were killed, according to reports.
Fox extended condolences to the victims of bombing. He said the Iraqi government has been quick to respond with humanitarian assistance and that there has been an outpouring of local support.
"This horrific attack intended to terrorize and divide is instead uniting all Iraqis regardless of sectarian beliefs or ethnic backgrounds," Fox said. "We have seen examples of Iraqis off all creeds and backgrounds reaching out to their brothers and sisters during this particularly difficult time, to help those injured and comfort their families by providing meals, bottled water, medical supplies and access to medical facilities."
Fox said the attack demonstrates the nature of the extremists there who will kill anyone in an attempt to grab news headlines, undermine the progress made in the region, and incite more violence.
But, he said, the real story is the unifying effects that the attacks have had on the Iraqi government, security forces and the people.
"All of these show true Iraqi courage to the world," he said.
Meanwhile, Fox said the surge against such enemies continues to keep them off balance and to deny them safe haven. He also said that the "Iraqi Security Forces are stepping up and improving every day."
"The Iraqi Security Forces are tough, they`re engaged, and they`re in the fight," he said. "These patriots are making a difference."
Recruiting has been robust for the Iraqi Security Forces, Fox reported. More than 9,600 men in Anbar province have volunteered to serve in the police force. In Diyala province, 3,600 volunteers are in training, with 2,400 more awaiting processing and screening.
As of Friday, 227,000 Iraqi Police have been trained, and the Government of Iraq has developed a program that could train 44,000 police annually, Fox said. The Iraqi Army has trained 165,000 troops and another 10,000 are in basic training. The Iraqi Army has developed a training program capable of handling 76,000 recruits annually.
There have also been more recent examples of citizens siding with Iraqi and Coalition forces to repel insurgent activity, Fox said.
On Wednesday, Diyala citizens fought side by side with Iraqi Police against terrorist attacks. In the end, 21 terrorists were killed and many others wounded. Two terrorists wore suicide vests, but were stopped short of their intended targets, he said.
"This level of cooperation between Iraqi Security Forces and local citizens is another clear example of Iraqis coming together to defeat al-Qaeda," Fox said.
Fox also emphasized that recent operations are not targeting only al-Qaeda. He said Coalition forces were tipped recently that militant extremists were transporting weapons using emergency vehicles as cover.
In a search Thursday, five militia extremists were caught transporting a 107 mm rocket in an ambulance. The rocket was hidden under a man pretending to be a patient.
"Our message is clear -- We will go after anyone operating outside the rule of law who targets the coalition or attempts to undermine government of Iraq," Fox said. "We remain committed and focused on the mission to help establish a secure, stable and self-governing Iraq that is representative of, and responsive to, all Iraqis."
(Story by Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press Service)