Despite the US military’s claim that thousands of extra troops are helping to bring stability to Iraq, many civilians told Al Jazeera that they are living in constant danger.
“There is no improvement in Baghdad on the security level. All of it is getting worse, despite what we hear in the media,” Assad, a government employee, told Owen Fay, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the Iraqi capital.
“We hear about it on TV, but on the ground we don’t feel anything. No services, no security in the streets.”
Sabah, a taxi driver working in Baghdad, said that the Iraqi administration and security services were doing more than the US to improve their lives.
“The credit belongs to the government with the help of the [Sunni] Awakening councils, the Iraqi army and the police in increasing the security here,” he said.
Basra air raid
The air raid in Basra on Wednesday came amid clashes between Iraqi security forces and Shia armed groups in the south of the country.
Major Tom Holloway, a British military spokesman, confirmed that an air raid had taken place in the northern district of Hayaniyah.
“The coalition forces did conduct an air strike … after positively identifying an enemy target. The enemy target was an RPG team engaging Iraqi army patrol,” he said.
US warplanes have carried out several strikes in the area over the past few weeks.
In Baghdad, an Iraqi police officer told the Associated Press that sporadic fighting was continuing in Sadr City.
He said that 18 people were also injured in the neighbourhood, including three women and three children.
The US military on Wednesday announced that two US marines had been killed by a roadside bomb in Anbar province on Monday.
Also on Wednesday, Iraq removed the Iraqi army and police commanders of Basra.
Iraqi army lieutenant general Mohan al-Fraiji and police chief major general Abdul Jalil Khalaf were transferred to senior staff positions in Baghdad and replaced by two other commanders, the Iraqi army spokesman in Baghdad, major general Qassim Atta, said.
Their removal comes just days after Iraq sacked 1,300 army and police personnel for “failing to perform” during the crackdown in Basra.
Hundreds of Iraqi troops and police are reported to have either deserted or swapped sides during the government offensive against Shia militias.
The move came after Iraqi press and blog reports claimed the al Sadr movement had succeeded in infiltrating the Iraqi army and police in Basra.
But Atta denied any link between the confrontations with the Sadris and the officers’ removal.
He said that they were “temporary appointees” and that it was “an administrative move”.
Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, said on Wednesday he was sure that al-Qaeda in Iraq and other armed groups would be defeated by the Iraqi army.
“We are determined to defeat terrorism,” he told the European parliament’s foreign affairs committee.
Iraqis despair after
“We are more confident than ever that we are close to a definitive victory over al-Qaeda and its lawless allies.”
Al-Maliki said that al-Qaeda was in a state of “total isolation” in Iraq and seeking “refuge beyond the borders” in neighbouring nations, which he urged to do everything possible to stop them.
But his claim, and that of the US military, that the threat of violence from Sunni fighters was diminishing, came in stark contrast to
a series of bombings in Baquba, Ramadi and Baghdad on Tuesday.
The attacks marked the bloodiest day in Iraq since March 6, when a twin bombing killed 68 people in the central Baghdad district of Karradah.
A spokesman for al-Qaeda in Iraq called on Tuesday for Sunnis to abandon the “army and polices forces”.
Omar al-Baghdadi offered “amnesty to the sons of Sunni tribes and those in the Awakening militias [to those who] turn their arms against the government and the occupiers.”
Al-Baghdadi’s statement suggests that al-Qaeda in Iraq is looking to boost its faltering influence in Sunni areas of the country, particularly where US-supported Sunni Awakening councils are in operation.