US commander in northern Iraq says 50 percent drop in attacks

The top US commander in northern Iraq warned Wednesday that al-Qaida in Iraq was still capable of staging spectacular attacks despite a 50 percent drop in bombings and other violence in his region. Army Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling said that al-Qaida in Iraq was being pushed north by the increased numbers of US troops that surged into Baghdad over the summer and fall, and from Anbar province by "awakening councils" - the groups of Iraqi Sunni tribesmen that the US military has backed to help fight al-Qaida in Iraq and its allies. "Many of them have transited our province" of Diyala, which has seen some of the worst violence in Iraq, he said. "There are still some very bad things happening in that province but we are continuing to pursue al-Qaida so they don't find a safe haven anywhere."