Iraq improving but al Qaeda, Iran still threats - U.S.
Violence in Iraq has decreased sharply but al Qaeda, Iranian-backed fighters and other militants remain a serious threat, as this week's bomb attacks showed, Washington's U.N. envoy said on Friday, Reuters reported.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad told the U.N. Security Council about the latest statistics on the decline in deadly attacks in Iraq more than five years after a U.S.-led invasion toppled the government of Saddam Hussein.
He said civilian deaths have declined by 80 percent since June 2007, while the number of Iraqi security forces fell by 84 percent and U.S. military deaths by 87 percent. The number of people killed as a result of ethnic and sectarian violence dropped by 95 percent during the same period, he said.
There were additional signs of the improvement in Iraq's security situation: an 81 percent decline in detonations of improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs, and a 72 percent drop in suicide bombings, Khalilzad said.
But he made clear this did not mean Iraq was safe or the insurgency dead.
"Al Qaeda in Iraq remains a significant threat, as do Iranian surrogate militants, and JAM," Khalilzad told the council, referring to the Jaysh al-Mahdi, or Mehdi Army.
"All retain the intent and capability of carrying out lethal attacks against the Iraqi people, such as the multiple bombings that occurred this week," he said.
Car and roadside bombs exploding in quick succession killed 12 people and wounded 60 in Baghdad on Wednesday. Other bombs killed or wounded more elsewhere in Baghdad on the same day.
Khalilzad said al Qaeda's increased use of people to detonate IEDs and female suicide bombers were a "particular challenge."