Iraqis between 'hope, fear' as U.S. troops withdraw

Baghdad

Hope and concern. This is how Iraq is experiencing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the cities, six years after the conflict that led to the fall of Saddam Hussein and a bloody civil war, according to Catholic prelates in Baghdad and Kirkuk.

Today, June 30, the official withdrawal of the U.S. combat troops from Iraq begins and should be completed by the end of 2011. Today, Iraqi forces officially assumed control of security in Baghdad and other urban areas.

"People are worried and afraid for the future," said Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk. "Yesterday, Christian families did not send their children to catechism classes for first communion, and neither will they in coming days. They are waiting to see what will happen, they have little confidence.”

A car bomb has killed at least 27 people in Kirkuk, a northern Iraqi city. At least 45 other people were wounded when the car bomb exploded at a market, leaving smoldering rubble where people had been shopping for food and other goods.