US commander in northern Iraq says 50 percent drop in attacks

The top US commander in northern Iraq warned 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 Wednesday 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. The insurgents are also being flushed out of Anbar province by "awakening councils" - groups of Sunni Arab tribesmen 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." He said al-Qaida extremists could still carry out attacks against infrastructure projects such as bridges. "You know, there are going to be continued spectacular attacks," he said when asked about the bombing of a bridge across Mosul dam on Monday.