Iraqi forces continue offensive in restive Diyala province
For a second day Wednesday Iraqi troops backed by US forces continued a major offensive against the al-Qaeda terrorist network in the restive Diyala province, reported dpa.
The Iraqi government has sent some 30,000 army and police forces to the province since it announced its plan to launch the assault weeks ago.
The offensive was launched mainly by Iraqi troops, according to the US military.
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces arrested on Tuesday 35 terrorist suspects believed to belong to al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, Mohamed al-Askary said in a press conference on Wednesday.
Al-Askary added that his forces arrested eight terrorist suspects who fled to the neighboring district of al-Thirthar. The men were disguised in women's clothes and carried fake IDs.
During the Diyala crackdown Iraqi forces have defused 10 bombs and confiscated a number of weapons.
The offensive consists of two army brigades and one police brigade as well as air support from the multi-national forces, al-Askary said.
The US military said the objective of the assault is to seek out and destroy terror threats in the province and seize control of smuggling corridors around it.
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 driven from other safe havens elsewhere in Iraq have regrouped in Diyala and carried out deadly attacks on troops and civilians.
The province also contains breakaway groups from the al-Mahdi Army militia of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
Diyala has an ethnically mixed population of Sunni and Shiite Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds, leading to ethnic and sectarian clashes.