Iraqis Celebrate National Sovereignty Day

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Six years after the start of the war in Iraq, U.S. troops have transferred power in major cities to Iraqi soldiers.

The move, however, came on the same day as another deadly car bombing.

At least 27 people were killed in the blast in Kirkuk, but the recent violence has not stopped Iraqis from celebrating the important day.

From Baghdad to Basra, from Kirkuk to Karbala, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to celebrate.

"Every Iraqi feels happy and pleased with this first step," said officer Ammar Waleed.

For the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraqi forces now have formal control of Baghdad and several key cities and towns across the country.

"Nobody should underestimate the importance of this day and the importance of the withdrawal," announced Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebarim.

The sentiment was echoed by the top U.S. military commander Gen. Ray Odierno, who is confident that the Iraqis can handle the challenges.

"Iraqis are on the way to being able to defend themselves," he said.

Odierno went on to explain that though control has been handed to the Iraqis, the thousands of American troops stationed in the country will remain a bit longer. 

"We are not leaving.  We will still have 130,000 people on the ground on July 1 as we did on June 30," he said.  "We will be here to continue to train and advise to conduct full-spectrum operations and continue to be in support of the Iraqi security force."

Still, June 30 was, as the president of Iraq said, a "turning point" and a lot is riding on the decision to pullout from the major cities.

As Iraqis celebrated this milestone, a bombing in the northern city of Kirkuk was another deadly reminder of the daunting challenges still facing Iraq.

"There are internal challenges, political changes and security challenges concerning the neighboring countries which the government must be ready for," said Iraqi Abdul Jabbar Ahmed.

Still, Iraqi and U.S. officials alike are certain these challenges can be overcome.

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