Curfew in restive Iraqi province ahead of offensive

Authorities in Iraq's restive Diyala province imposed on Tuesday a total curfew as part of preparations for a major military operation to root out insurgents from the al-Qaeda terrorist network, according to security sources.

A curfew was enforced in the early hours on Tuesday due to the launch of a military operation by Iraqi and US forces to track down fighters, especially those belonging to al-Qaeda, a media official from the ground troops in Diyala told the Voices of Iraq news agency.

No further details were immediately available, reported dpa

Diyala, which stretches from the eastern outskirts of Baghdad to the Iraqi border with Iran, has been a safe haven for anti-US insurgents, mainly the Islamic State of Iraq, also known as al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Sunni Arab insurgents, who were driven from other safe havens elsewhere in Iraq, have regrouped in Diyala and carried out attacks, often using female suicide bombers.

The province also contains breakaway groups from the al-Mahdi Army militia of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The province has an ethnically mixed population of Sunni and Shiite Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds, leading to ethnic and sectarian clashes.

The Iraqi government announced weeks ago that it would launch an offensive in Diyala involving thousands of troops.

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