According to Iraqi police reports obtained by the AP. Great news, but there are caveats. Civilian deaths outside Baghdad over the same two-month period are up 49% and U.S. KIAs inside the capital are up 21%. It’s also unclear how reliable the police reports are. WaPo ran a white-knuckle page-one story a few days ago about U.S. troops inside Sadr City who suspect virtually every last cop on the beat of either being JAM or afraid to cross the JAM. If that’s true, you can bet there are plenty of killings going on that aren’t making it into the blotter.

Reasons?

It is unclear why deaths outside Baghdad have increased. However, U.S. military officials say both Sunni and Shiite extremists left Baghdad ahead of the crackdown, instead stepping up their operations in a belt of communities around the capital.

The rise in deaths outside Baghdad may also be partly a result of clashes in Anbar province between al-Qaida extremists and Sunni tribes that have broken with the extremist movement.

That trend will continue and probably even increase once operations against AQ in Diyala province get going.

Speaking of Al Qaeda, they’re working on a trend of their own. I wrote a few weeks ago about rumors of mentally disabled kids being used in jihadi attacks. As it turns out, it’s not a rumor. Bear in mind, this is a UN news agency report, not something from Centcom:

The dreams 13-year-old Barak Muhammad (not his real name) had of leading a normal teenage life were dashed when his father sold him to al-Qaeda militants. Being mentally handicapped, he said he was considered a burden by his family and was told he would be better off sacrificing his life for his country…

Barak’s father sold him to al-Qaeda in Iraq for US $10,000 to support his remaining five children. Now, Barak is in training to fight US and Iraqi troops…

Carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle, Barak said he accompanies insurgents during night time raids and when needed acts as a decoy to divert the attention of US or Iraqi forces in the run-up to an attack…

Like Barak, dozens of other mentally handicapped children are being used by insurgents to fight US and Iraqi forces…

Officials at a local NGO, who refused to be named for security reasons, said they had received many reports that mentally handicapped children were being used in insurgent attacks, especially in cities such as Diyala, Ramadi and Fallujah.

Iraqi kids who aren’t mentally disabled are doing their best to persevere, god love ’em.