'Withdrawal of US troops shows Iraq can handle own security'

Despite a wave of bombings last week, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has assured that the country's troops are ready to take over.

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BAGHDAD // Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said yesterday that the withdrawal of US combat forces from Iraqi cities this week showed Iraq can handle its own security, despite a wave of bombings last week. The US pullback from urban centres has been seen as a milestone on Iraq's road to sovereignty after years of military occupation. But a spate of bombings in the capital and in northern Iraq last week, including two of the bloodiest attacks in more than a year, have shaken the confidence of Iraqis in their own forces. "We are on the threshold of a new phase that will bolster Iraq's sovereignty," Mr al Maliki said. "It is a message to the world that we are now able to safeguard our security and administer our internal affairs." Two big bombings in Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk killed more than 150 people between them. On Friday, a bomb killed at least 13 people at a market in Baghdad. A spattering of other bombing has also fuelled apprehension.