Iraqi forces launch crackdown; al Qaeda defiant
BAGHDAD, Monday (Reuters) Iraqi forces on Sunday launched their
biggest security crackdown since the fall of Saddam Hussein with the
start of a sweep by 40,000 Iraqi troops who will seal off Baghdad and
hunt for insurgents.
Over the next few days, Iraqi soldiers would block major routes into
Baghdad and search the city district by district, looking for foreign
Arab fighters and Iraqi guerrillas, Iraqi officials said. They would be
backed up by around 10,000 U.S. troops deployed in the capital during
Operation Lightning. Al Qaeda's network in Iraq said it had responded
with a new offensive of its own. Insurgents killed 20 people across
Iraq, including a British soldier.
An Internet statement from the group said its offensive was led by
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi "under his planning and supervision". "This ... is
in response to the futile plan announced by defence and interior
ministers to seal off Baghdad." An Internet posting on Web sites used by
insurgents said last week that the Jordanian leader of al Qaeda group in
Iraq had been wounded. Britain's Sunday Times newspaper said he had been
moved to Iran for treatment after being wounded by shrapnel in a U.S.