WASHINGTON – US House Speaker John Boehner, on a visit to Baghdad, hailed Iraq's march toward self-governance by year's end, praising it as "a different country" from the violence-ridden recent past.
"Just four years ago, a terrorist insurgency was killing innocent civilians and wreaking havoc across the country," Boehner, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, said from Iraq in a statement release by his office in Washington.
"Today Iraq is a different country" as the last remaining US forces there prepared to depart by year's end, said Boehner, who traveled to Iraq over the weekend as part of a six-member congressional delegation.
"By taking the fight to Al-Qaeda, the insurgency, and other terrorist threats, our men and women in uniform succeeded in providing greater security to the Iraqi population and giving the government the time to build capacity to more effectively meet the needs of the Iraqi people."
He said the members of Congress during their trip met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, US ambassador James Jeffrey, as well as top US military commanders.
"Our first priority must be ensuring that the remaining 46,000 US forces and their civilian counterparts that are working with the government of Iraq and advising and assisting the Iraqi Security Forces have the resources and support they need to complete their mission," Boehner said in his statement.
"It is also critically important that we continue to assist and engage with the Iraqi government to ensure that the hard-fought gains in a post-combat Iraq translate into long-term success."
But even as Boehner issued his statement, Iraq was beset by new violence, as bombs and gunmen killed six people on Sunday, four of them from the same family, security sources there said.
The four family members -- parents and two daughters in their 20s -- were all shot in the head overnight by gunmen who spared a third, seven-year-old daughter, interior ministry and security officials said.
Violence has sharply fallen in Iraq since its peak during sectarian killings of 2006 and 2007, but bombings, shootings and kidnappings remain common.
Also on Sunday, magnetic "sticky bombs" attached to cars killed two civilians and wounded another in Kirkuk, a violence-prone, religiously and ethnically diverse northern province, senior police officials said.
And in the western part of Kirkuk, police said they found the corpse of the leader of an anti-Al-Qaeda militia who was kidnapped a week ago. It was unclear when he was slain.