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American Forces Press Service

Governor Optimistic About Diyala Security

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAQUBAH, Iraq, Jan. 18, 2005 - The governor of Iraq's Diyala province is optimistic that security will be strong enough to hold elections here Jan. 30.

"We're working with the police and the Iraqi army and with the coalition forces," said Abdullah Rashid during an interview in his office today. "We're preparing very well for that day as far as security."

Diyala province is one of four that coalition commanders said was not ready for elections. Baqubah, the capital, has been a hotbed of the insurrection. Embassy officials said there is a campaign to keep people away from the polls.

Military officials said that improvised explosive devices and vehicle-borne IEDs are the main weapon. "They do not challenge us with small arms," said a 1st Infantry Division spokesman. "The Iraqi forces here are also getting better equipment and training and are working closely with U.S. units."

The governor said he believes the army and the police will be ready to control the areas around polling places on election day.

Later in the day, the governor presided at a Peace Day celebration. The idea for the day was for insurgents to come in and they would be given amnesty. Many people attended and some were upset that they had been classified as insurrectionists.

The governor told them that citizens have a responsibility. The citizens in a democracy must not turn a blind eye to acts of terrorism, he said. "If you will give us the intelligence, we won't have to search your home," he said in Arabic. "Then we will be able to pick these guys up."

Many young men attended the Peace Day celebration. Achmed said that he was in the army under Saddam Hussein. He said he has not held a job since the dictator's government was toppled. "I have a family and they must eat," he said.

He said that many men in Baqubah - once a training area for the Iraqi army - are in the same situation.

Another man said that the level of violence in Baqubah is escalating. "It is like the river - it rises, it lowers," he said. "It is high now. We just don't want it to flood."

He said there were times last year when the coalition lost control of Baqubah and the insurgents were able to intimidate people at will. When the coalition controls the city, the insurgents must do this covertly, he said. Still, there are tribal ties that preclude Iraqis from turning an insurgent in.

The Iraqis will hold a rehearsal of election day in the near future. Coalition forces also will hold meetings with Iraqi security personnel throughout the province. "We will surprise people here in Diyala," Diyala province governor Abdullah Rashid said.

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