BAGHDAD (American Forces Press Service, Dec. 22, 2006) - One of the top priorities for the mayor of Mahmudiyah is rebuilding his city's downtown market. "It's the heart of our community," Muayid Fadhil said.

"We are going to build a new market as a memorial to those innocent men, women and children who have been killed there. It will tell the insurgents we will never give up, they cannot stop us."

That market has been the target of numerous insurgent attacks in the past year. Currently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing a $245,372 project to construct new market stalls with overhead cover, and renovating storefronts along the street that have been damaged by bomb blasts and small arms fire. That work includes new doors, windows, stucco and paint, as well as new gates at each entrance of the market.

About 100,000 residents in the Mahmudiyah area (located 20 miles south of Baghdad) use the market and local farmers bring in their produce and meat for local consumption. It's a main economic engine of the community "and our residents really appreciate the improvements that are under way," the mayor noted.

Maj. Steve Martinelli, officer in charge of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Victory Resident Office South, said the market is a gathering place where families interact. "It's a source of community pride and provides a semblance of normalcy that's great to see," Martinelli said.

Lt. Col. Robert Morschauser, Commander of Task Force 2-15FA, 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, agreed and said the market renovation clearly demonstrates that Mahmudiyah's democratically elected government is working and improvements are taking place.

"Those officials are listening to their townspeople and getting things done," Morschauser said. "We've talked to the shopkeepers and they're very happy with what's going on. This is an excellent example that Iraqi officials are in the lead."

A number of other projects are now under way in Mahmudiyah, including a new primary healthcare center, school renovations, new power lines, and renovation of the water treatment plant and pump station. The community also is planning to build a park a few blocks from the market that will feature an amphitheater and soccer field.

Regarding the importance of such projects, Muayid concluded, "We have to fight terrorism in different ways. We need to offer alternative activities for our children that will keep them away from the insurgents."

The Mahmudiyah market renovation project is expected to be completed by February.