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Baghdad Residents Weigh In on U.S. Security Efforts


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

Today, U.S. military officers told Defense Secretary Robert Gates they need help in northern Iraq. They said they don't have enough troops because so many have been called to Baghdad to take part in the surge there. U.S. Army Colonel Tony Thomas said the north has suffered. There's been an increase in violence. And Thomas calls for more American soldiers and the return of 1,400 Iraqi troops who were sent to the center of the country.

Meantime, there were four significant bombings in Iraq today, including one in a shopping district of Baghdad that killed 16 people. That was unusual. Baghdad has seen a decrease in violence over the last few months.

And we asked our staff in Baghdad to get the views of some Iraqis about whether the city is, in fact, a safer place to live.

Ms. MARWA AL ASSADI(ph) (Resident, Iraq): (Through Translator) Of course, there is a big change now. First, explosions have decreased. Secondly, we were noticing that people who wouldn't dare go out are back out again. We had been restricted in what we could wear for college, and before, my mother had to accompany me to college. But now, students are coming back. Thank God.

Mr. RIYADH AL RUBAI(ph) (Resident, Iraq): (Through Translator) Even when we talk to our friends on the Internet, who are abroad, we told them to come back. The situation is better. We told them that we have started to go out in a normal way.

Unidentified Man #: How long the avenue has been ready to Sadr?

Mr. SAMAR JAMIL(ph)(Resident, Iraq): (Through Translator) So the city is safe for me, but I don't feel safe in other parts of Baghdad. I won't feel safe in Baghdad until I see the Iraqi ministers go shopping with suites(ph), back to regular citizens. And the soldiers and police can walk freely with their uniforms on. Then, I will say it's safe.

(Through Translator) Well, today, I woke up on the sound of an explosion. I didn't know where that explosion but for sure, there are so many casualties. And this is why I'm depressed. I do not think there's a security improvement. Recently, there was an explosion in the bed market, then, there was an explosion today. Weeks ago, it felt safer, but now, with these two explosions, things have gone bad.

Ms. HANA AL-YUBUDI(ph) (Resident, Iraq): (Through Translator) In July and August, it was unusually slow because most of the customers had fled the country. Most of my customers left abroad because the security issue was so tensed. Now, the situation has reversed. It's much better. I know hundreds of people who came back home, and those were still abroad wish to come back. They call us asking for advice, and we tell them we could walk the streets safely. We can wear what we like.

Mr. ZAHID BAHAMAD(ph) (Resident, Iraq): (Through Translator) Currently, the security situation is better. There is no comparison between the situation before and now. The displaced families are coming back to their neighborhoods. We left the neighborhood two months ago, but now we are back and Baghdad is very good for the time being.

Mr. ADNAN ALI ABDUL KARIM(ph) (Resident, Iraq): (Through Translator) I feel comfortable since there were no explosions today, except one in the morning. We hope there were no casualties in that explosion. There are fewer every day. We hope, God willing, we'll wake up one day without hearing any explosions, no car bombs or IEDs and people would be able to go about their business freely.

Mr. ADAL KAFAM(ph) (Resident, Iraq): (Through Translator) I feel 100 percent safe inside or Sadr City. In fact, our city brothers are coming to shop from a market here. No assassinations have taken place inside Sadr City. I want to invite our Sunni brothers to come to the city at any time. Our hospitals are open to you, the markets, too. Come see how safe it is inside the city.

BLOCK: We heard there from Baghdad residents Marwa Al-Assadi, Riyadh Al-Rubai, Samar Jamil, Hana Al-Yubudi, Zahid Bahamad, Adnan Ali Abdul Karim and Adal Kafam. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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