A Sunnier Outlook for Iraq?

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WASHINGTON - This week Shiite pilgrims wrap up their 40-day period of mourning to honor imam Hussein - the grandson of the prophet Muhammad.

But for some, the religious mourning was marred by murder.

Today a roadside bomb killed three religious pilgrims outside Baghdad - the third attack in the past two days.

A suicide bomb on Sunday killed more than 50 and injured 70 people.

The American embassy is accusing Sunni extremists of trying to re-ignite sectarian violence in Iraq as it did in February 2006 with the bombing of Samarra's famous al Askari mosque.

Violence Down

But despite recent attacks, U.S. and Iraqi officials point to encouraging signs that show violence in Iraq is on the decline.

According to General Mike Milano, a top U.S. military official in Baghdad, there has been a 75-percent decrease in attacks in the Iraqi capital since June 2007.

He credits the year-long military surge for improving the situation, particularly in Baghdad.

Where 78-percent of the city's districts are now considered free of organized violence. When the campaign started, only 20-percent were considered safe.

Civilian casualties have plunged by 90-percent, and there has been an 85-percent decrease in murders.

And those numbers could point to even more success, with radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr declaring another six-month cease-fire and the military's plan to recruit more Sunni tribesman to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The Kurds

But on another front, tension is mounting in the Kurdish north after Turkish ground troops marched into marched across the border to squash armed rebels with the Kurdish working party.

There are fears the invasion could threaten Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition. He needs Kurdish support to keep his coalition government together.

But despite the difficulties on the political front, with violence down so dramatically since the surge began, there's little doubt the military has made progress in making Baghdad safer.

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Erick Stakelbeck

Erick Stakelbeck

CBN News Terror Analyst

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