BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Authorities imposed a vehicle ban in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Friday after the bodies of 12 people, including four police officers, were found in the past 24 hours, police said.
The ban, triggered by insurgent threats against police, came a day after Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki criticised Washington for failing to bring security to the country.
Police said insurgents had distributed leaflets in Mosul on Thursday threatening attacks on the police if they did not release several people detained during the past month.
Mosul, whose population mostly a mix of ethnic Kurds and Sunni Arabs, has long been a flashpoint of violence, particularly against security forces. Six suicide bombs aimed at security forces last week killed 20 people on a single day.
In further evidence of the obstacles Iraq faces in building a police force capable of taking over from U.S. forces, 28 policemen were killed in a rebel ambush north of Baghdad on Thursday, police said.
Maliki, given only qualified backing by U.S. President George W. Bush in comments this week aimed at reassuring Americans over his project in Iraq, told Reuters on Thursday his Shi’ite-led government could get violence under control in six months if U.S. forces gave them more weapons and responsibility.
Ahead of Nov. 7 polls that may cost Bush’s Republicans control of Congress, a survey found about 50 percent of likely voters believe U.S. troops should be pulled out of Iraq by the end of next year. Fifteen percent want an immediate withdrawal.
But attacks on Iraqi police and soldiers make it more difficult for the U.S. forces to withdraw.
The U.S. military death toll in October is edging closer to 100 and is already the highest monthly toll in a year, at 96.
The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which ended this week, saw an upsurge in attacks, as in previous years. Major General William Caldwell said there was a sharp drop in the days since it ended but it was too soon to call it a trend.
U.S. officials, training more than 300,000 Iraqi soldiers and police, are increasingly stressing their goal of eventually withdrawing their troops, as Iraq pitches toward civil war.
Caldwell told a news conference: “The achievement of our shared goal is ultimately the responsibility of the Iraqi people and their leaders.”
Bush said on Wednesday he would not leave American troops in the crossfire of a civil war and said his support for Maliki depended on him continuing to take “tough decisions.”
Maliki told Reuters his police were having to share rifles but, with better American help, could bring respite from dozens of daily killings in half the 12-18 months the U.S. commander in Iraq says is needed before Iraqis can take control. “If, as we are asking, the rebuilding of our forces was in our own hands, then it would take not 12-18 months but six might be enough,” he said. “If anyone is responsible for the poor security situation in Iraq it is the (U.S.-led) Coalition.