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Monday, October 20, 2008

Iraq announces Al Qaida defeat, warns neighbors

BAGHDAD — Iraq stated that Al Qaida was on the verge of collapse and will soon be eliminated.

Senior officials said the Al Qaida network sustained a significant loss in capability and recruits in 2008. They said that despite a spate of suicide bombings Al Qaida was on the verge of disintegrating.

"We have succeeded to a great extent in weakening the armed and terrorist factions of Al Qaida in Iraq and the neighboring countries should be vigilant regarding a comeback of these terrorists to the region," Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki said.

In an interview with the official Kuwait news agency, Al Maliki said Iraqi intelligence has determined that the Al Qaida network would soon be eliminated, Middle East Newsline reported. Al Maliki said the network sustained a major blow with the loss of its No. 2 figure, Abu Qaswarah, a Moroccan native killed in a U.S.-led coalition operation in Mosul on Oct. 5.

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"Now the noose around Al Qaida has been tightened by the security forces and the ordinary Iraqi citizens," Al Maliki said.

Officials said the Al Qaida network has been alarmed by its losses in Iraq and was sending operatives to other areas of the Middle East. They said many of the Al Qaida fighters have entered neighboring Syria, struck by a series of car bombings and other attacks over the last two months.

Morocco was also said to have been the latest venue for escaping Al Qaida fighters. Officials said the flow of Al Qaida fighters dropped significantly in 2008 -- from 90 to two insurgents per month.

Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwafaq Al Rubaie said Al Qaida has been split amid the offensive by the military in 2008. Al Rubaie said Al Qaida fighters have lost contact with their commanders in several provinces.

"It has become disintegrated and their gunmen can no longer hold contacts with the armed men in Diyala and Salah Eddin," Al Rubaie said.

Al Rubaie said Al Qaida maintains a single network in Iraq. The network was believed to be based in the Baghdad area.

"If we suceed in dismantling it, we would be able to declare the end of its history in Iraq," Al Rubaie said in a briefing.

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