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August 15, 2006

More news from Iraq.

It's not all bad.

BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces took control of another area of Baghdad on Monday after the latest in a series of transfer of authority ceremonies near the capital.

Army Col. Claude Ebel, commander of the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division said responsibility for Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah South, a base of operations for security forces south of the capital, was transferred to the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, dubbed the Desert Lion Brigade. The Iraqi unit will have full responsibility for the Baghdad areas of Mahmudiyah and Rutifiyah, Ebel said.

The ceremony, which included a demonstration of Iraqi military capability and martial prowess, comes as joint Coalition and Iraqi operations continue to rid the capital of death squads and insurgent violence.

“They’re a superb unit. They’re the most developed unit since we first arrived,” Ebel said of the Iraqi brigade.

“What really makes (the brigade) special is their soldiers. These are the sons of average Iraqi citizens who choose to fight for all of Iraq.”

Soldiers of the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, aka the Desert Lion Brigade, march in a pass in review ceremony at Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah South Monday. The unit is now in control of battlespace in south Baghdad.

Ebel said the brigade has taken initiative by bringing supplies to schools and clinics without Coalition prodding. He also said the brigade has been recognized for their good behavior and humane treatment of detainees.

“That’s a difficult task when you recognize that many of these individuals (detainees) actually tried to kill them,” the colonel said.

Army Lt. Col. Eric Conrad, the military transition team chief advising the Iraqi brigade, said Coalition troops and

members of the brigade have been conducting operations together for some time.

“We’ve learned their culture and become brothers in arms. Once they get the resources and the confidence, they can do anything. Back in the United States we take a year to establish a new brigade. These guys are doing the same thing under combat conditions. It’s truly remarkable what they have been able to accomplish,” Conrad said.

Conrad gives a lion’s share of credit for the Iraqi unit’s success to Iraqi Army Col. Ali Jassim Mohammed Hassen Al-Ferajee, commander of the Desert Lion Brigade.

“These guys aren’t just sitting on (traffic control points). They’re also going out and doing offensive combat operations,” Conrad said.

Conrad said the Iraqi soldiers are brave men who are willing to shed blood for their country.

The Iraqi brigade was established in early 2005 by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. It was the final brigade to be established in the 6th Iraqi Army Division. Monday’s transfer of authority is the latest in a series of handovers as Iraqi security forces continue to assume more responsibility for their own national and local security.

The mixed Sunni and Shia’ area of Baghdad around Mahmudiyah has been the source of much insurgent activity and sectarian violence plaguing the capital in recent weeks and is located in the area often called "The Triangle of Death" or "The Sunni Triangle."