The United States is getting out of Iraq. Washington and Baghdad have agreed that all U-S forces should leave the country by the end of 2011. But the Pentagon has warned that insurgents are trying to re-ignite the kind of sectarian violence that nearly tore Iraq apart in recent years. Anchor Lisa Mullins speaks with the BBC’s Natalya Antelava is in Baghdad.
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LISA MULLINS: I’m Lisa Mullins and this is The World. The United States is getting out of Iraq. Washington and Baghdad have agreed that all US forces should leave the country by the end of 2011. But the Pentagon has warned that insurgents in Iraq are trying to reignite the kind sectarian violence that nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006 and 2007. Today there was evidence to support the seriousness of those warnings. Car bombings in Iraq killed more than 40 people. Two bombs went off near Mosul and two exploded in Baghdad. The BBC’s Natalya Antelava is in Baghdad. Can you tell us what is known about today’s attacks?
NATALYA ANTELAVA: Well the first attack happened in a village near Mosul and that was the biggest of them all. It was two big trucks full of explosives went on just at dawn as people were still sleeping. So those who woke up woke up to their houses in ruins, their relatives or neighbors buried in the rubble. Just as those people were rushed off to the hospital, in Baghdad two more car bombs exploded in different parts of the city and those targeted construction sites just as people were coming to look for work at construction sites. And the government that has blamed al-Qaeda for it says it was also very well coordinated and very well planned.
MULLINS: When events like this happen who responds? I mean right now the United States and its allies have left things in the hands of the Iraqi police and army. Are they the first on the scene and is the United States or US forces anywhere when there are bombings like this?
ANTELAVA: Not any longer. Just over a month ago, at the end of June, the US handed security over to Iraqi police and army that are now patrolling cities. And it was a withdrawal from the cities. They still can be outside the cities and have operations outside the cities in the country. But in the cities it’s now purely Iraqis who are in charge. It’s them who go to the sites. It’s them who are in charge of both investigating it and preventing these attacks. And many people have been telling me that this is exactly what they feared all along – rise in violence after the withdrawal of the American troops from cities in Iraq.
MULLINS: Natalya one quick question before we let you go. What is it like now? Is there any difference now as you walk along the streets of Baghdad specifically – now from the way it was when American troops were very visible on the ground?
ANTELAVA: Well I think the biggest difference is the fact that the American troops aren’t visible and that it’s Iraqi checkpoints now. It’s Iraqis who are patrolling the streets. Also the Iraqi government which is in quite a bit of rush to prove to its people that security is under its full control has, just over this weekend, ordered the city authorities to dismantle those protective blast walls that are everywhere in Baghdad. They surround communities here. They block off main roads. They’re around many houses. And many people here hate these protective walls because you know they really changed the city. Baghdad has lost its face. So many people would like to see them go but at the same time once again people that I’ve been talking to today say that it’s too early. That we’re not quite there yet and the government seems to be just in a rush to show that to create an illusion of security rather that improve security for real.
MULLINS: Alright speaking to us from Baghdad the BBC’s Natalya Antelava. Thank you.
ANTELAVA: Thank you very much.
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