Iraqi PM al-Maliki announces "decisive" offensive against al-Qaeda

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Nouri al-Maliki in 2006.

After successive suicide attacks in Mosul in recent days, killing over 40 people including the city's police chief, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced on Friday that Iraqi security forces and American troops were gathering for what he described as a "decisive" offensive against al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and its allies.

"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," al-Maliki stated during a ceremony honoring the victims of the recent acts of terrorism. "Today our forces started moving to Mosul. What we are planning in Nineveh will be decisive."

"Today, the troops have moved to Mosul ... and the fight there will be decisive," al-Maliki said Friday at the ceremony in Karbala.

AQI moved its headquarters to Ninawa province after losing the Second Battle of Fallujah back in 2004. U.S. military commanders state that the organization is regrouping in the province after having been driven out of Anbar province by their former Sunni allies.

Today, the troops have moved to Mosul ... and the fight there will be decisive

—Nouri al-Maliki

Troop numbers have not been released for the offensive, which is in the planning stages. Major-General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf, spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, stated that 3,000 extra police officers will be included.

Since the United States sent 30,000 extra troops to Iraq in early 2007, the security situation in the nation has improved. Attacks were down 60% in the second half of 2007, and AQI has largely been driven out of most of its former strongholds, including the western portion of Anbar province and Baghdad.

The concentration of militants has led to an increase in violence in Mosul. In one incident on Wednesday, a bomb leveled a three-story apartment complex. 34 people were killed and over 200 were injured. Then on Thursday, at the same site, a second explosion killed the police director of Ninawa, Brig. Gen. Salah Mohammed al-Jubouri, and two other police officers.

Al-Maliki expressed confidence in Iraqi security forces. "Now we have a real army. The days when the militants could do anything in front of our armed forces are gone."