Iraq gears up for 'final' Qaeda battle
Baghdad, January 26, 2008
Iraqi security forces have begun a 'decisive' final offensive against Al Qaeda in Iraq to push the Sunni Islamist militants out of their last major stronghold in the north, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said.
He said Iraqi soldiers and police were being sent to Mosul, where a massive blast blamed on Al Qaeda killed 40 people and wounded 220 on Wednesday, and an operations room had been set up in the city, 390 km north of Baghdad.
US military commanders say Al Qaeda, blamed for most big bombings in Iraq, has regrouped in the northern provinces after being squeezed out of western Anbar province and from around Baghdad during security crackdowns last year.
They describe Mosul, capital of Nineveh province, as Al Qaeda's last major urban stronghold in Iraq.
'We have set up an operations room in Nineveh to complete the final battle with Al Qaeda along with guerrillas and members of the previous regime,' Maliki said, referring to other Sunni militants the Shi'ite-led government says remain loyal to former leader Saddam Hussein.
'Today our forces started moving to Mosul. What we are planning in Nineveh will be decisive,' he said during a ceremony for victims of violence in the holy Shi'ite city of Kerbala in southern Iraq, broadcast on state television.
Maliki gave no details of the number of Iraqi troops involved or the scale of the operation. Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari did not have details but said it had been launched at Maliki's request.
'Security is very weak there and the security forces need to be reinforced,' Askari said.
Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf said the Mosul push would include 3,000 extra police.
Iraqi security officials in the city said no reinforcements had arrived yet.
US and Iraqi troops have launched a series of offensives in northern provinces this year targeting Al Qaeda in Iraq.
The US military calls the group, which commanders say is largely foreign-led, the biggest threat to Iraq's security.
The military said this week that Al Qaeda militants killed 3,870 civilians and wounded almost 18,000 in 4,500 attacks last year.
'We defeated Al Qaeda, now there is just Nineveh province where they escaped to, and Kirkuk,' Maliki said, referring to another northern city.
During his trip to Kerbala, Maliki met Sheikh Abdul Mehdi Al Karbalai, a representative of Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Karbalai was lightly wounded in a bomb attack in the city late on Thursday.
Maliki called the bombing a 'criminal act'. US military commanders say al Qaeda's influence in its former strongholds has been greatly diminished but that it remains a dangerous enemy in Mosul and other northern areas.-Reuters
More INTERNATIONAL NEWS Stories
- Obama orders sanctions over Russian moves
- Crimea parliament votes to join Russia
- Arab League to be revamped
- 'Upskirting' is legal: Massachusetts court
- Singapore probes 'unnatural' death of bitcoin trader
- Onus on world powers for Syria war crimes: UN
- US, Russia set for talks on Ukraine crisis
- Brent oil drops below $109
- Services outshine manufacturing, pushing up jobs
- Bitcoin bank shut down after hacker attack
- India to kick off world's biggest poll on April 7
- China signals focus on reforms
- Hundreds ready for bitcoin exchange class action
- Space taxi, Jupiter mission in Obama budget
- Putin: Use of force last resort in Ukraine
- Powers to boost Lebanese military, economy
- Egypt bans Hamas activities in Egypt
- Putin ends army exercise, markets rally
- Russia has violated international law: Obama
- Russian markets hit as Putin tightens grip on Crimea
- Iran nuclear deal 'being implemented as planned'
- Global factory growth stumbles as demand falters
- Obama warns of 'fallout' for Israel if peace effort fails
- Ukraine mobilises after Putin's 'declaration of war'
- Oil jumps $2 over Ukraine tension
- US threatens to isolate Russia for Ukraine aggression
- Ukraine mobilises for war, calls up reserves
- Berkshire net profit surges 31pc
- China blames militants for deadly station attack
- Beginning of war? Putin ready to invade Ukraine