Iraq launched a military crackdown on smuggling gangs, Al Qaeda militants and militias responsible for recent attacks US forces, security officials said.
Triggered in part by a spate of attacks on US forces last month, the crackdown aims to staunch the flow of illegal weapons into southern Iraq from Iran.
June was the deadliest month for US forces in Iraq where 14 US service members were killed in hostile incidents, the largest number since June 2008. Iraq’s police and army have also been under increased attack for months as a year-end deadline nears for the withdrawal of US troops.
In one of the largest offensives, about 3,000 Iraqi troops and police were mobilized against militias and smugglers in southern Maysan province, a provincial official said.
US officials blame Iranian-backed Shia militias for many of the attacks. Maysan shares a long border with Iran.
Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi, the spokesman for the Iraqi Military’s Commander-in-Chief, said security forces were arresting militants, searching for weapons caches and stepping up patrols to cut down on rocket and mortar fire on US bases.
“We are implementing a tight security plan including all outlaw groups. Part of this plan is to control Iraq’s border perfectly,” Moussawi said.
“The entry of illegal arms to Iraq is contributing to undermining security, whether the weapons are used against US or Iraqi troops, in assassination operations or armed robbery.”
More than 8 years after the US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussain, the US still has around 47,000 troops in Iraq. A full withdrawal is expected by year-end in accordance with a joint security pact.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in a Reuters interview last week, said Iran was “absolutely complicit” in the growing US casualties in Iraq.
Source: Khaleej Times