Middle East

Iraq forces strike Sunni militants near Syria

A fireman runs behind the burning carcass of a car following two car bombs explosions in the Iraqi city of Ramadi in the western Anbar province on April 19, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/STR)

BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces mounted a massive operation on Saturday to better secure the country's western desert amid concerns it is being used by Sunnis heading to fight in neighboring Syria.

Some 20,000 troops attacked suspected hideouts of fighters linked to Sunni militant groups, including Al-Qaeda, and looked to secure a key road leading to Syria, top officers said.

Troops were also moved to the 600-kilometre (375-mile) border with Syria.

"The operation is large and backed by the air force," Staff General Ali Ghaidan Majeed, the head of ground forces, told AFP. "It has resulted in the arrest of several Al-Qaeda members and the destruction of some of their strongholds."

"The target of the operation is also to clean the desert of the terrorist elements that exist there."

Two senior commanders in Al-Qaeda's local front group, the Islamic State of Iraq, were among those killed.

Majeed did not say how many troops had been sent to the border.

The operation is being carried out in parts of border provinces Anbar and Nineveh, where Iraqi and Western officials are concerned that Sunni militant groups opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and to Iraq's Shiite-led government have set up camp.

Among the mostly-Sunni rebels fighting Assad's regime are groups allied to Al-Qaeda. That has fuelled fears in Baghdad of a spillover from neighbouring Syria increasing tensions and violence in Iraq.

The more than two-year uprising in Syria has reportedly left more than 94,000 people dead.





Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

Alert: If you are facing problems with posting comments, please note that you must verify your email with Disqus prior to posting a comment. follow this link to make sure your account meets the requirements. (http://bit.ly/vDisqus)

comments powered by Disqus



Interested in knowing more about this story?

Click here