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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Basra Residents: We feel secure

For all the hype, criticism and questioning of al-Maliki deciding to crack down on Sadr's Mahdi Army and militias in Basra, the residents are cheering the move and stating it was a good thing to have happened and that they feel more secure.

Residents expressed relief at the improved security.

"I am very happy about the situation right now. The deployment of the Iraqi army has made gunmen and gangsters disappear from the streets," said court employee Mahdi Fallah, 42.

"The gangs were controlling the ports and smuggling oil. Now the ports are back in government hands. Everything in Basra is better than before."

Taxi driver Samir Hashim, 35, said he now felt safer driving through the city's streets and was willing to put up with the traffic jams caused by the many security checkpoints.

"We feel secure. Assassinations have ended, organised crime is finished and armed groups are no longer on the streets," said Hashim.

"I think Basra will be the best city in Iraq," he added optimistically. "We are finally beginning to feel there is law in Basra."

"We feel comfortable and safe and secure," said civil servant Alah Mustapha.

"The situation in Basra is stable. The Iraqi army controls the city and there are no longer armed groups on the streets."

Despite problems that went with the crackdown, the Iraqi forces with the coalitions help have arrested 430 people, including 28 death row convicts who had been on the run and rescued British photographer Richard Butler on Monday two months after he was kidnapped from a Basra hotel.

Sadr, of course is bitter and has denounced the crackdown but the people of Basra are happy that their streets are being protected by the Iraqi Security Forces now and not a bunch of murdering thugs.

A similar crackdown is also under way in the Mahdi Army's eastern Baghdad bastion of Sadr City where around 90 people have been killed in clashes between US and Iraqi forces and Shiite militiamen in the past 10 days.

al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army are quickly becoming completely irrelevant as Iraqi's take their streets back.

The Iraqi security forces weeded out the week, with some 1,300 soldiers and police being fired for failing to do their duty, thereby strengthening those that remain that do not have to worry about those watching their back having conflicting loyalties.

Good for Maliki and good for the Iraqi Security teams as well as the people of Basra.