BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi troops have arrested 140 suspected al Qaeda members and other Sunni Arab militants in the past four days in raids on the northern city of Mosul, security officials said on Saturday.
Mosul is the last urban stronghold of a largely Sunni Arab insurgency that comprises Islamist groups such as al Qaeda plus some members of Saddam Hussein’s outlawed Baath party.
“This operation targets al-Qaeda and Baathists in the city … and those collaborating with them,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Mohammed al-Askari.
He added the number of Iraqi forces had been increased around the city to cordon off insurgent activity.
A local security official who declined to be identified said the crackdown, conducted by an elite Iraqi anti-terrorist unit from Baghdad, netted 140 suspected insurgents. A hundred of the detainees had been moved to jails in Baghdad, he said.
He said that 100 others were still wanted by authorities.
Al Qaeda stepped up its presence in Mosul and surrounding Nineveh province after being defeated in western Iraq and Baghdad by Sunni Arab tribes allied with U.S. forces.
Though weakened since last year thanks to an increased presence of Iraqi security forces in Mosul, insurgents are still able to carry out frequent, lethal attacks in Mosul and across Nineveh.
(Reporting by Khalid al-Ansary; Additional reporting by Tim Cocks in Baghdad; Writing by Tim Cocks; editing by Andrew Dobbie)