Government troops began house-to-house searches for al-Qaeda in Iraq militants in Mosul yesterday, part of a major security operation to cleanse Iraq’s third-largest city from cells of the terror network.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki flew to Mosul on Wednesday to take charge of the operation by US-backed Iraqi forces. Described by the US military as the last major urban base of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Mosul has become the site of al-Maliki’s third security drive in two months as he attempts to defeat Shiite militants and Sunni extremists.
Al-Qaeda, however, appears to be far from defeated.
In an attack that bore the group’s hallmarks, a suicide bomber on Wednesday blew himself up in a funeral tent in a village west of Baghdad, killing 22 people and wounding 40, police Colonel Faisal al-Zubaie said.
The funeral for Taha Obaid, a primary school principal killed the previous day by gunmen, was attended by local, US-backed Sunni tribesmen fighting al-Qaeda militants. It was not known how many of them were among the killed and wounded.
A three-year-old son of Obaid was among those killed, al-Zubaie said.
In Baghdad, a fragile ceasefire reached this week between Shiite politicians and followers of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the capital’s Sadr City district came under renewed strain yesterday.
Overnight and early morning clashes between US-backed Iraqi forces and militiamen loyal to al-Sadr left eight men killed and 19 wounded, officials from two hospitals in the Shiite enclave said.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the wounded included women and children.
Also in Baghdad yesterday, police officials said a roadside bomb struck the convoy of the capital’s Shiite governor, Hussein Tahan, as it made its way to pick him up from his home in the central Karradah district. One of his bodyguards was killed in the blast and six others — four other bodyguards and two bystanders — were wounded.
The blast took place at 8:30am in the central Nasr Square, said officials, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.