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Wednesday, January 2, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

Iraq security forces mopping up Al Qaida networks

BAGHDAD — Iraq has determined that the lion's share of Al Qaida was eliminated.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry stated that 75 percent of Al Qaida's network has been destroyed. Officials said Iraq's intelligence community has penetrated Al Qaida and killed or arrested much of its leadership.

"We have destroyed 75 percent of Al Qaida hideouts, and we broke up major criminal networks that supported Al Qaida in Baghdad," Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf said.

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[On Tuesday, at least 32 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the funeral of an Iraqi senior officer in Baghdad, Middle East Newsline reported. The officer had been killed in a car bombing on Dec. 28.]

Khalaf attributed the erosion of the Al Qaida network to an improvement in Iraqi intelligence and military. He said 70 percent of Al Qaida operations were foiled over the last year.

Officials said the reduction in Al Qaida operations led to a drop in abductions and killings throughout Iraq. They also attributed the reduction to increased Iraqi security cooperation with Saudi Arabia and Syria in 2007.

Abductions have declined by 70 percent in 2007, officials said. They said the daily killings in Baghdad were reduced from up to 20 in February 2007 to as little as three in December.

"Their activity is now limited to certain places north of Baghdad," Khalaf said. "We're working on pursuing those groups, that is the coming fight."

Khalaf said the new auxiliary police force has helped penetrate Al Qaida cells. He said Sunni volunteers recruited by the Interior Ministry were identifying Al Qaida operatives in neighborhoods in Baghdad and other major cities.

On Dec. 29, a leading Al Qaida insurgent, Ahmed Turki Abbas, identified as the self-styled defense minister of the Al Qaida-aligned Islamic State of Iraq, was captured. Abbas was arrested near Mahmoudiya, about 35 kilometers south of Baghdad.

"After eliminating safe houses in Anbar province, which used to be Al Qaida's base, we moved into areas surrounding Baghdad and into Diyala province," Khalaf said. "Al Qaida headed north and we are pursuing them."

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