US general says Qaeda fighters move to north Iraq

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WASHINGTON, Nov 19 (Reuters) Al Qaeda fighters fleeing Baghdad and Anbar have moved into Iraq's volatile north, making that region the country's most violent, a US commander said today.

Army Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of forces in areas north of Baghdad, said that while violence has declined throughout the country, the number of attacks in his region is the highest in Iraq.

''What you're seeing is the enemy shifting,'' he said.

''If you simply look at a map of Iraq, you understand why it's occurring,'' he told reporters in Washington by videolink from Iraq, citing security gains made by U.S. and Iraqi forces against al Qaeda in Baghdad and Anbar.

Attacks in Iraq have dropped sharply since the United States added 30,000 troops to the war zone earlier this year.

Attacks are now at their lowest level since January 2006.

Hertling said the number of al Qaeda attacks in the north was declining too, but still remained high.

For example, he said the number of improvised explosive devices -- the deadly roadside bombs known as IEDs -- declined from 1,830 in June to 900 in October in his region.

''MND-N (Multinational Division-North) still has the highest number of attacks in all of Iraq even though our numbers have also decreased,'' he said, using the acronym that designates his area of responsibility in Iraq.


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