Iraq takes over security of Anbar province (Lead)

September 1st, 2008 - 6:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Ramadi (Iraq), Sep 1 (Xinhua) Iraqi forces Monday took over the responsibilites for security of the western province of Anbar from US troops, the provincial government said.In a televised ceremony held in the provincial capital city under strict security, the US military authorities and the provincial government signed the handover document.

Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, Iraq’s National Security Advisor, announced the security transfer, saying “the Anbar province which once was one of the hottest areas in Iraq is celebrating today the transfer of security file.”

The handover ceremony was planned to be held earlier in June, but was postponed due to bad weather, including sandstorms, according to a US military statement.

However, media reports said that the delay was due to disputes between leading Sunni Islamic Party and local anti-insurgency awakening council groups in the province, headed by Ahmed Abu Risha.

Anbar would be the 11th of Iraq’s 18 provinces to return to the control of Iraqi security forces. It would also be the first Sunni-dominated province to be handed over by the coalition forces.

Anbar, the country’s largest province, extending from Baghdad to the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, has been relatively calm since Sunni tribes and anti-US insurgent groups in 2006 turned against Al Qaeda in Iraq network, cooperating with the US troops and Iraqi security forces.

The other 10 Iraqi provinces handed over by US forces to date are Qadisiyah, Maysan, Muthanna, Basra, Dhi Qar, Najaf, Karbala, and the three Kurdish provinces of Duhuk, Sulaimaniyah and Arbil.

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