DIWANIYAH, Iraq,(AFP) -The handover of security control of the Shiite province of Diwaniyah from the US military to Iraqi forces has been cancelled, a local government official told AFP on Monday.
Sheikh Ghanim Abid Dahash, spokesman for Diwanyiah provincial council, said the transfer has been postponed “indefinitely because there is no coordination between the central government and the US forces.”
Dahash did not give details but the US military also confirmed that the transfer had been cancelled.
Dahash said a curfew which was imposed in the province on Sunday evening to prevent any insurgent attacks during the handover ceremony was also lifted.
Diwaniyah, formerly known as Qadisiyah, was to be the 10th of Iraq’s 18 provinces to be taken over by local forces from US-led foreign troops, amid a push to transfer security control of the entire country back to Baghdad.
More than five years after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, security in nearly half of Iraq’s 18 provinces is still in the hands of US-led forces.
The nine provinces which have been handed over to the Iraqis are Maysan, Muthanna, Basra, Dhi Qar, Najaf, Karbala, and the three Kurdish provinces of Dohuk, Sulaimaniyah and Arbil.
Diwaniyah has often been rocked by infighting as rival Shiite militias vie for supremacy.
The province has seen fierce clashes between supporters of anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his rival Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council.
Last November, Iraqi and US troops launched a major military assault in Diwaniyah to stabilise the region of around one million people.
More than 3,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen supported by tanks and hundreds of US and Polish troops took part in the assault to flush out Shiite militants from the province’s capital.
Nearly 100 militants were detained during the operation, many of them loyal to Sadr.