1,000 arrested in Iraq in crackdown against al-Qaeda

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Almost 1,000 people have been arrested in Iraq as part of a crackdown against al-Qaeda in Mosul, the nation's third-largest city.

Troops have gone out into the surrounding countryside seeking many more who have fled into the countryside. It is hoped that Mosul, one of al-Qaeda's most prominent strongholds, will now be rid of the group but it is feared that unless the remaining suspects are caught they will simply regroup elsewhere, as they have been known to do before.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in June 2006

Yassin Majid, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said most of the leaders had fled, some to an unnamed neighbouring country. About 60 miles from Mosul are borders with Syria and Turkey. "Operations will continue and the Iraqi army will not leave Mosul until security and stability have been accomplished," he said.

Mark P. Hertling, head of US operations in North Iraq, who has troops involved in the operation, said he didn't believe large numbers were still at large since the Thursday launch of the operation, but added that many of the leaders may have fled before it began to avoid arrest. "It's been very successful. I think the combination of the arrests plus the uncovering of a number of weapons caches will reduce the number of attacks in Mosul." he said. The city is now surrounded by barriers and checkpoints and is being searched by troops, but no fighting has been reported yet.

1,068 arrests were reported by Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, who added that 94 have been cleared and released. Hertling said several of these were in high and mid-level positions in the command structure of al-Qaeda. Some of these are said to be suicide bomb cell leaders and people who arranged for foreign fighters to enter Iraq.

The Prime Minister has promised an amnesty to fighters who surrender their weapons provided they have not killed civilians.