Iraq vows a 'decisive' battle

Prime minister says forces to go after al-Qaida in showdown in Mosul.

By Washington Post
Published January 26, 2008

BAGHDAD - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Friday that Iraqi reinforcements have begun moving toward the northern city of Mosul for a "decisive" battle with the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaida in Iraq.

Maliki gave no details as to the number of troops or where they were coming from but said an Iraqi command center had opened in Mosul, capital of Ninevah province, to coordinate intensified efforts against insurgents in the city. He described the province as one of the last major places where al-Qaida in Iraq remains a serious threat.

"Today our forces started moving to Mosul," Maliki said in a televised speech during a ceremony for victims of violence in the southern city of Karbala. "What we are planning in Ninevah will be decisive."

He spoke two days after security problems in Mosul, the third-largest Iraqi city, were punctuated by a massive bombing that killed at least 38 people. The following day, the police chief of the province was assassinated by a suicide bomber while he was inspecting the scene of the earlier attack.

Iraqi and U.S. officials say insurgents have fled north from Baghdad and Anbar provinces under pressure from an American military offensive and taken refuge in and around Mosul.

"All terrorists in Iraq came to Mosul after being kicked out of the other provinces," said Duraid Kashmoula, Ninevah's governor. "Hopefully this statement from the prime minister will be implemented very soon."

Some Iraqi officials were skeptical that Maliki would commit to a large military effort in Mosul. "We have repeatedly demanded that he increase the number of troops in this city," said Mahama al-Shangali, a member of Parliament from Ninevah province. "They never respond."

Some American officers disputed the idea that Mosul had grown more dangerous in recent months. Lt. Col. Michael Simmering, executive officer of the U.S. regiment based in Mosul, wrote in an e-mail that "the perception that Mosul is less secure than it was six months ago is absolutely false. It is all relative to the security situation in the rest of the country."

Fast facts

Iraq developments

Hussein and weapons: Saddam Hussein allowed the world to believe he had weapons of mass destruction to deter Iran and did not think the United States would stage a major invasion, according to an FBI interrogator who questioned the Iraqi leader after his capture. Hussein expected only a limited aerial attack, George Piro told CBS's 60 Minutes in an interview to be broadcast Sunday.

U.S. soldier dies: The U.S. military said a soldier died Friday in a noncombat incident in central Iraq.