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6,000 Sunnis to join patrols

The alliance with U.S. troops aims to plug extremists' escape routes.

Published November 29, 2007


HAWIJA, Iraq - Nearly 6,000 Sunni Arab residents joined a security pact with American forces Wednesday in what U.S. officers described as a critical step in plugging the remaining escape routes for extremists flushed from former strongholds.

The new alliance - called the largest single volunteer mobilization since the war began - covers the "last gateway" for groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq seeking new havens in northern Iraq, U.S. military officials said.

U.S. commanders have tried to build a ring around insurgents who fled military offensives launched this year in the western Anbar province and later into Baghdad and surrounding areas.

In many places, the U.S.-led battles were given key help from tribal militias - mainly Sunnis - that had turned again al-Qaida and other groups.

Extremists have sought new footholds in northern areas once loyal to Saddam Hussein's Baath party as the U.S.-led gains have mounted across central regions. But their ability to strike near the capital remains.



Other developments

-UNICEF warned that Baghdad might be facing a cholera outbreak, with 101 new cases reported in recent weeks. Cholera is a water-borne disease that often appears if sanitary conditions are poor. The capital, where untreated sewage flows into many waterways, accounts for nearly 80 percent of the country's new cases, the agency said.

-A woman wearing an explosive-rigged belt blew herself up near an American patrol near Baqubah on Tuesday, the military announced Wednesday. Seven U.S. troops and five Iraqis were injured.


[Last modified November 29, 2007, 02:37:56]

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