The U.S. military is walling off at least 10 of Baghdad’s most violent neighborhoods and using biometric technology to track some of their residents, creating what officers call “gated communities” in an attempt to carve out oases of safety in this war-ravaged city.

The plan drew widespread condemnation in Iraq this past week. On Sunday night, Prime Minister Nouri-al Maliki told news services that he would work to halt construction of a wall around the Sunni district of Adhamiyah, which residents said would aggravate sectarian tensions by segregating them from Shiite neighbors. The U.S. military says the walls are meant to protect people, not further divide them in a city that is increasingly a patchwork of sectarian enclaves.

The military sees a simple virtue in the barriers.

“If we keep the bad guys out, then we win,” said 1st Lt. Sean Henley, 24, who works out of an outpost in southern Ghazaliyah, a Sunni insurgent stronghold on Baghdad’s western edge that is among the first of the gated communities. The square-mile neighborhood of about 15,000 people now has one entrance point for civilian vehicles and three military checkpoints that are closed to the public.


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