A crackdown on Al Qaida in northern Iraq by pro-U.S. Kurdish forces has confirmed the transfer of hundreds sleeper agents into the region by way of Iran.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan has arrested at least five suspected
insurgents from the Al Qaida-aligned Ansar Al Islam. Sources in the PUK, led
by Jalal Talabani, said the suspects were planning to carry out a series of
strikes against U.S. and Kurdish interests in northern Iraq.
The Ansar plans included a plot to bomb a celebration for Talabani in
wake of his appointment as president of the interim Iraqi Governing Council.
This was the first time a Kurd was placed in power in Iraq.
About 500 operatives from Ansar are said to be deployed in northern
Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. Some of them were said to have been involved in bombings in Baghdad.
PUK sources said the suspects have confessed to being operatives for
Ansar. The sources quoted the suspects as saying that they were sent to
northern Iraqi from neighboring Iran.
Western intelligence sources have warned that Ansar has targeted the
Kurdish region of northern Iraq for its next campaign. The sources said
Ansar has sent hundreds of sleeper agents around such cities as Mosul and
The United States has repeatedly warned Iran and Syria to prevent
infiltration of insurgents from their borders. So far, U.S. officials said,
both countries have failed to halt the infiltration over the Iraqi border.
The PUK arrests come as ethnic tension has erupted in the northern city
of Kirkuk. Overnight Monday, the city saw heavy fighting in which nine
people were killed or injured in an attack on Talabani's headquarters. The
attacks included automatic gun fire at a police station in the city.