Sadr City back in Iraqi forces' hands
The US military hands over the control of a security base to Iraqi forces some 10 days ahead of the schedule set for American troops to withdraw from Iraqi towns and cities, Press TV reported.
The Saturday hand over of the Joint Security Station in Sadr City comes, while according to a November interim agreement between Baghdad and Washington, the US must withdraw its forces from urban areas by June 30.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki hailed the move on Saturday, saying that the withdrawal from the cities by the end of the month would be regarded as a "great victory" for the Iraqi nation.
"It is a great victory for Iraqis as we are going to take our first step toward ending the foreign presence in Iraq," he said.
The premier, however, warned that the militants and extremists are plotting to take advantage of the transition and initiate more attacks in the country.
"They (the militants) are preparing to move in the dark to destabilize the situation, but we will be ready for them," Maliki said.
His comments come while a series of deadly bomb attacks have rocked Iraq over the past couple of days, the deadliest of which took place in Kirkuk on Saturday leaving at least 46 people killed and 166 others wounded.
Iraqi officials say the US will pull out some 12,000 troops by the end of September. Currently, the United States has some 140,000 troops stationed in the country. A full withdrawal of American forces is scheduled to take place by 2011.