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Iraq ready for major security crackdown

PM Nouri al-Maliki also announced plans for an extended curfew and a weapons ban, saying he would show 'no mercy' to terrorists.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2006 11:48 IST

Iraq's Prime Minister set in motion the biggest security crackdown in Baghdad since the US-led invasion, with 75,000 Iraqi and US troops to deploy across the strife-prone capital starting on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also announced plans for an extended curfew and a weapons ban, saying he would show "no mercy" to terrorists six days after Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a US airstrike northeast of Baghdad.

The government did not say how long the crackdown would last.

The operation, which army officials said was dubbed Operation Forward Together, came as radical anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr planned a demonstration on Wednesday in Baghdad to protest US President George W Bush's surprise visit to the capital.

Iraqis were met with increased checkpoints causing some traffic jams as they drove to work in the capital on Wednesday, and there were fewer vehicles circulating on the streets.

An Iraqi army official said on condition of anonymity that two divisions had been deployed, which would be about 20,000 soldiers, along with some 50,000 Interior Ministry forces.

Bush's visit Tuesday was seen by many as a boost for al-Maliki, who is seeking to build momentum after al-Zarqawi's death and the appointment of defence and interior ministers following weeks of political stalemate.

Al-Zarqawi's successor, identified by the nom de guerre Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, vowed to defeat "crusaders and Shiites" in Iraq and said "holy warriors" in the country were stronger than ever, according to a Web statement posted Tuesday _ the first from the new leader.

First Published: Jun 14, 2006 11:48 IST