28 Jun 2009

Security tightened ahead of Iraq troop pullback

7:39 am on 28 June 2009

The authorities in Iraq are stepping up security ahead of Tuesday's deadline for United States forces to withdraw from towns and cities.

A spate of bombings in the Baghdad and in northern Iraq this week, including two of the bloodiest attacks in more than a year, have left 250 people dead.

US and Iraqi officials have warned they expect the number of attacks to rise as the American troops pull back by 30 June, and also in the run-up to parliamentary elections next January.

Police leave has been cancelled and extra troops have been drafted in.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday that Iraq can handle its own security, despite the wave of bombings.

"We have high trust in our security forces to administer security and pursue al-Qaeda remnants and criminal gangs," Mr Maliki said.

He added that Iraq had achieved comparatively good levels of security, not just through better policing but efforts at political reconciliation between Iraq's divided factions.