Friday, June 27, 2008

US Military to hand back Sunni bastion of Anbar Province to Iraq

Mon Jun 23, 12:01 PM ET Yahoo/Agence France Presse

The US military is to hand over security control of the former Sunni insurgent bastion of Anbar province to Iraqi forces in the next 10 days, a US military spokesman announced on Monday.

"The handover of Anbar is expected to take place in the next 10 days," Lieutenant David Russell told AFP, declining to provide an exact date. Anbar Province would be the tenth of Iraq's 18 provinces to be handed back to Iraqi forces by the US-led coalition amid a push to transfer security control of the entire country back to Baghdad. Anbar province in western Iraq, the country's largest, was the epicentre of a brutal Sunni Arab-led fight against the US military after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.

In the early years of the insurgency, US forces fought raging battles in the province, especially in the capital Ramadi and the nearby city of Fallujah. Fallujah became the symbol of the ultra-violent insurgency before it was virtually razed to the ground in November 2004 by a US military assault launched to seize control of the city.

The US military has lost 1,295 service members in the province since the invasion, second only to Baghdad where it lost 1,308 troops, according to the indpendent website The website says November 2004 remains the deadliest month for the military in Iraq. It lost 137 troops that month when it launched the Fallujah assault.

The violence in the country's largest province started ebbing in late 2006 when local Sunni tribes, weary of Al-Qaeda's religious extremism and brutal methods, switched allegiance and formed a local group to fight them. Since then Anbar has been hailed as a symbol of stability.

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