Northern Iraq the most violent as attacks decline overall

Despite a decline in violence in Iraq, northern Iraq has become more violent than other regions as al-Qaida and other militants move there to avoid coalition operations elsewhere, the region's top US commander said. Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling said Monday that al-Qaida cells still operate in all the key cities in the north. "What you're seeing is the enemy shifting," he told Pentagon reporters in a video conference from outside Tikrit in northern Iraq. Hertling said militants have been pushed east to his area from Anbar by the so-called Awakening movement, in which local tribes have allied with the coalition against al-Qaida. Others have been pushed north to his area from the Baghdad region, where this year's US troops escalation has made more operations possible. "The attacks are still much higher than I would like here in the north, but they are continuing to decrease in numbers and scale of attacks," he said. Hertling said 1,830 roadside bombs were placed in his region in June, compared with 900 last month.