Iraq vows to stamp out al-Qaeda, normality in Baghdad slum
Iraqi senior officials vowed Sunday to
stamp out insurgents of the al-Qaeda terrorist network in the northern city of Mosul where a large-scale crackdown has begun while normality is gradually returning to Baghdad's Shiite enclave amid sporadic fighting.
Speaking to reporters in Kirkuk, Iraq's Minister of Interior Jawad al-Bulani said the scope of the new offensive would be unprecedented because it would rely on operations to penetrate the ranks of insurgents, regular security patrols and a plan to secure the help of local clans and people.
Echoing the same tone, Iraqi Security Advisor Muwafak al-Rubayi told the official al-Iraqiya television that the offensive against al-Qaeda in Mosul would be "decisive."
"The battle has gradually began and will be stepped up under the aegis of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki," al-Rubayi said.
As part of the crackdown, Iraqi Security forces killed five gunmen and detained 72 others in separate operations in Mosul and surrounding areas, security officials said.
"Big-scale preparations have been undertaken in Tikrit and Kirkuk to confront al-Qaeda operatives who may flee (from Mosul) to both cities," al-Bulani said.
A US troop surge in Baghdad in June 2007 has been credited with improving security in the Iraqi capital. Insurgents linked to al- Qaeda are believed to have fled Baghdad and regrouped in northern Iraq, mainly in Mosul, which is the provincial capital of Nineveh province.
Neighbouring provinces are bracing for a possible flight of insurgents from Mosul if the crackdown yields successful results.
Earlier, the US military said an operation targeting al-Qaeda gunmen in Mosul had left four people dead, including a woman and a child.
In the operation on Saturday, al-Qaeda suspects, who were travelling in a vehicle, refused to stop after coalition troops fired warning shots, which prompted the forces to engage them, according to the military statement.
The woman and the child, who were also in the vehicle, were killed in the exchange of fire along with two gunmen.
In Baghdad's Shiite-dominated Sadr City, calm is returning to the slum but sporadic fighting between Mahdi Army militia and US and Iraqi troops continued, Voices of Iraq news agency reported.
This comes a day after the Iraqi government agreed to a ceasefire with the Shiite militia of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to end the fighting in their stronghold.
Under the 14-point agreement, the militia are to lay down their arms, end public displays of arms and remove snipers and bombs from roads.
The Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabagh, said security forces were empowered under the deal to search any place where they suspect heavy and medium weapons may be hidden.
Iraqi and US troops have been trying to subdue militia in Shiite- dominated neighbourhoods of Baghdad since late March. At least 6,000 people have fled the fighting and nearly 1,000 people are believed to have been killed, many of them civilians.
Earlier, eyewitnesses told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that Sadr City has been bombed overnight by US aircraft hours before the ceasefire came into effect, dpa reported.